The Restoration Banker, Edward Backwell

           In 1660, the English parliament invited the exiled royal family to return. Charles II was allowed to rule, ending over a decade of republican administration that began with Parliament’s victory in the English Civil War. The restored king Charles II was, like Charles I, strapped for cash. Temporary relief would periodically come from the considerable

Tuscan Banking in the Middle Ages

             Medieval Italy was home to a burgeoning banking system, even a century before the start of the Medici banking operation. This system was concentrated in the Tuscan cities of Siena, Lucca, and Florence but its reach was international. Tuscan bankers financed merchants conducting international trade before extending their services to kings and popes. These relationships

Biddle, Jackson, and the Bank War

           In spite of, if not because of, their importance, banks are not usually popular. They are frequently the target of zealous reformers. Yet, bold policies rushed into enthusiastically should be the most worrisome. Campaigning against any institution in the name of progress should bring into question what exactly will replace it. Left unaddressed or poorly

Roman Loans

           The financial system of classical Rome was developed enough that it had long abandoned a barter economy by the time of Caesar or Augustus. Rather, it had an efficient monetary system. This is not to say that it was an economy where people only, or even mostly, transacted in coins. Indeed, credit was also important.

Swiss Banks and Secrecy

           For a small country, Switzerland punches above its weight in banking. This has largely been attributed to bank secrecy rules that make Swiss banks particularly useful to some. Over the past century, the country’s banking sector has been associated with secrecy, accused of facilitating tax evasion and other crimes. While a professional standard in banking

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

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

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

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