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A Debtor WorldInterdisciplinary Perspectives on Debt$
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Ralph Brubaker, Robert M. Lawless, and Charles J. Tabb

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199873722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199873722.001.0001

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Debt, Credit, and Poverty in Early Modern England

Debt, Credit, and Poverty in Early Modern England

(p.9) 1 Debt, Credit, and Poverty in Early Modern England
A Debtor World

Craig Muldrew

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a historical examination of credit and debt. Through an exploration of the origins of credit in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England as the modern mercantile system took root, this chapter draws important lessons regarding the nature, necessities, structure, and stability of a complex financial system. In particular, it describes the informal systems of extending credit that developed in early modern England, and shows how those systems depended vitally on trust and as a result a comparison with modern credit systems, with the recalibration, and sometimes the breakdown, of accurate barometers of trust, is telling. The chapter demonstrates that economic growth depends on credit, and credit depends on trust, which is at an individualized, interpersonal level. These considerations are part and parcel of a complex and necessarily holistic assessment of the intertwined interactions of “individuals, institutions, and ideas” as the building blocks of a modern economy.

Keywords:   credit, debt, history, financial system, trust, modern economy

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