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

Italian Unification and the Corso Forzoso

           Fiscally troubled governments have often found monetary expedients to their financial difficulties. The result is often trouble. Deficits once financed by issuing bonds willingly bought are thereafter financed by printing money reluctantly accepted. The result is a despotic tax, levied arbitrarily on those unable to secure a ‘real’ income both sufficient and recurring for their

Defoe on Trade, Commerce, and Credit

           It is easy to presume that business writing is a relatively recent genre of literature. One would think that novels have been around far longer. Reality can be surprising though and it happens that business literature has been around for centuries and, in the English language at least, novelistic writing hardly predates it by much.

The Mounts of Piety

           Many understand that banking activity was stifled in Europe during the Late Middle Ages by religious prohibitions on usury, which then referred to lending at any interest rate at all. However, this view is somewhat anachronistic, at least when applied to the end of the Middle Ages. By the time history arrived at the era

How the Bank of Amsterdam Changed Money

           When central banks were created in the 17th century, they didn’t everywhere change the nature of money. Indeed, the Bank of England was founded not with any particular monetary objective in mind, but rather with a fiscal one. In Holland by contrast, the Bank of Amsterdam was established with a monetary raison d’etre. Almost immediately

Philip IV, the Counterfeiter King

           Finance is usually distinguished from the ‘real economy’ to isolate those parts of an economic system that are most directly engaged in production or consumption. However, this shouldn’t suggest that a financial system cannot reveal anything new about the ‘real economy’ not already measured. The condition of a monetary system can be indicative of an

Germany’s Gargantuan Small Banks

           Many countries have state-run banks but few date back two centuries. Today, Germany has several hundred of these loosely affiliated public banks, comprising a major leg of a financial system older than the country itself. They are distinct from the larger banks both in their history and their objectives and, together, these small lenders are