WISO Abendkolloquium 3.12.2019


Banking Before Banks: Peer-to-Peer Lending in Pre-Industrial Europe

Elise M. Dermineur (Umeå University)

Zeit: Dienstag. 3. Dezember 2019, 18:00 - 19:30 Uhr

Ort: Seminarraum WISO 1, Hauptgebäude, Stiege 6, 2. Stock, Obergeschoß

Moderation: Juliane Schiel

Debt, either private or public, has become a critical component of people’s lives and one of the most important challenges for the future. In early modern Europe, credit and debt were the two most essential features of economic exchange. Warding off temporary shortages in the cycle of agrarian economic activity constituted the primary function of credit in traditional societies. But in the early modern period, economic development, characterized by substantial growth – notably thanks to improvements emerging in a period of proto-industrialization and boosts in agricultural output –, also required more capital and financial exchange for further investments, engendering growing indebtedness. Credit was therefore an essential financial tool for millions of Europeans, either to sustain their investments or to make ends meet.

This presentation focuses on traditional private credit markets in pre-industrial Europe It examines in particular how credit markets functioned and how they changed in the early modern period. It argues that traditional credit markets featured norms of solidarity, cooperation and fairness, and allowed considerable flexibility and input from both creditors and debtors. But in the middle of the eighteenth century, this market experienced major changes. Not only did the volume of exchange and the number of loans dramatically increase, but a new group of investors modified the traditional norms and practices of exchange. Peer-to-peer lending shifted from a system in which input, negotiation and flexibility prevailed to a more rigid institution in which rules and rigour applied.