Debt, Credit, and Poverty in Early Modern England

Craig Muldrew

in A Debtor World

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199873722
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980000 | DOI:
Debt, Credit, and Poverty in Early Modern England

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This chapter presents a historical examination of credit and debt. Through an exploration of the origins of credit in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England as the modern mercantile system took root, this chapter draws important lessons regarding the nature, necessities, structure, and stability of a complex financial system. In particular, it describes the informal systems of extending credit that developed in early modern England, and shows how those systems depended vitally on trust and as a result a comparison with modern credit systems, with the recalibration, and sometimes the breakdown, of accurate barometers of trust, is telling. The chapter demonstrates that economic growth depends on credit, and credit depends on trust, which is at an individualized, interpersonal level. These considerations are part and parcel of a complex and necessarily holistic assessment of the intertwined interactions of “individuals, institutions, and ideas” as the building blocks of a modern economy.

Keywords: credit; debt; history; financial system; trust; modern economy

Chapter.  13153 words. 

Subjects: Company and Commercial Law

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