Pawnbrokers and the 18th Century Poor

           While credit may hardly be considered unavailable to the poor in wealthy countries today, it’s easy to think it only became so accessible in recent times. In truth, though there will generally be more eager lenders to the rich than to the poor, and while the forms of credit available to the latter have changed,

Ford’s 1919 Management Buyout

           Leveraged buyouts, the acquisition of companies where the purchase price is paid primarily by borrowing, became increasingly common in the 1980s. Very often, existing management teams are invited to participate in a leveraged buyout by the acquirer. Occasionally, it is the management team themselves who initiate the transaction and in this variation the arrangement is

London, Antwerp, and Sir Thomas Gresham

           London developed into a financial center in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sir Thomas Gresham, a 16th century merchant and royal financial agent, had some part in making this so. His leading role in establishing the Royal Exchange is well known and lends evidence to this view but that was just a part of his

Toasters, Televisions, and Regulation Q

           Over the last half century, regulation of banks has generally diminished as governments have shed the controls implemented during the Great Depression. In the United States, as elsewhere, banking used to be a very staid business with its workings dictated more often by regulation than by competitive dynamics. Indeed, for decades, the interest rates paid

Raiffeisen and the Rural Credit Union

           While they had existed for centuries before, it was during the 19th century that access to banks was extended to virtually all classes. In Europe and America, new types of banks were formed, including credit unions, that sought to provide dependable financial services to ordinary people. The first of these credit unions were formed in

English Usury Law and its Abolition

           Whether usury laws stunted the growth of finance, especially in early modern Europe, is a question that causes much disagreement. The degree of enforcement of these laws may have had some impact on the level of financial development in different parts of Europe but it would be difficult to argue that usury laws stifled all

From Stockholms Banco to Riksbank

           The Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, is one of the oldest banks in the world but it was not an entirely novel creation. Rather, it took up the responsibilities of another bank that had recently failed, the Stockholms Banco. That firm was the victim of adjustments to the coinage that interrupted the monetary

The People’s Budget

           Advocates of free trade have often promised it would bring more productive industry, the curtailment of monopolies, and more choice for consumers. However, free trade required a rethink of fiscal systems since, at least prior to the 20th century, most national governments relied on customs duties for a substantial part of their revenues. Those who

The Ottoman Debt Crisis

           When sovereign debt markets globally became more integrated in the 19th century, weaker debtors found a new way to finance deficits, borrowing from abroad. No longer would expedients to budget shortfalls, prudent or not, need to be found domestically. The advances of the 19th century enabled new borrowers to issue bonds to yield-hungry investors in

America’s Land Bubble

           In the history of financial bubbles, the assets at the center of attention have varied from equity and debt securities to commodities like tulips, indigo, and gold to real estate and land. The last of these was the object of great speculation in the early history of the United States. Indeed, it was a land