Writing about Debt

in New World Gold

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226856186
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226856193 | DOI:
Writing about Debt

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Mercantile writing is central to the problematic of representation concerning value that originated with New World gold and expanded throughout the long sixteenth century. In the Indies the quest for gold showed that treasures had no everlasting value. In Castile the economic boom of the sixteenth century gave rise to a market model of value that debunked both the aristocratic ethos and the commercial ethics established by early economic thought. As the national debt continued to grow, anxieties about the credit economy worsened and questions about where true value could be found arose. The issuance of debased copper coins, whose face value exceeded both the worth of the metal itself and the value set by common estimation, was another cause of alarm. Mary Poovey's account of the problematic of representation and the forms of writing inspired by monetary upheavals in eighteenth-century Britain provides an important framework for assessing the development of the credit economy in Habsburg Spain.

Keywords: Spain; Mary Poovey; credit economy; value; New World; gold; Indies; Castile; debt; mercantile writing

Chapter.  21639 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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