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

Bank Restriction Act in Caricature

           The 18th century was a formative one in finance, especially in Britain. The innovations of the ‘Financial Revolution’ and the accompanying respect for the importance of sound credit had resulted in an increasing ‘financialization’ of the economy. Though still scarce, credit was becoming more accessible, most of all for the increasingly indebted British state. When

Napoleon’s Bank

           The French Revolution was the culmination of a century of financial mismanagement. The political disorders only brought about further economic trouble though, and monetary mayhem as well. However, the Revolution did create opportunities in French finance as it eliminated barriers to the establishment of new banking firms. One of those formed in the wake of

‘Equitas’, Insurance’s Bad Bank

           Lloyd’s of London, one of the oldest continuously operating financial institutions around, faced profound troubles just thirty years ago, financial challenges that threatened to discredit or destroy it. The eyes of its regulators, customers, and thousands of member underwriters were on Lloyd’s. In recent years, banking firms in distress have created ‘bad banks’ to separate

The Sword Blade Bank

           Establishing a corporation used to be a rare feat, not as simple as filing a form. Indeed, incorporation and the legal benefits it provided to financial and non-financial firms were closely guarded rights, the product of charters rarely conferred. So, if a corporation’s business model was on the way out and its value dwindling; it

Fishguard and the Gold Standard

           In its first century in operation, the Bank of England carried out a wide array of functions, many of which it had a legal or practical monopoly over. One of these was ensuring its banknotes, the most common in the country, were adequately backed by reserves, the most important of which was gold. However, in