London Orphans and Credit

           In the early days of government borrowing, public borrowing went hand-in-hand with estates and inheritances. Bonds and annuities, both means by which states in early modern Europe borrowed, were also convenient ways of transferring wealth to widows and heirs.            Perhaps nowhere was this association clearer than in London, especially in the 17th century. The City

Genoese Finance

           Financial development comes in waves, often washing up in the same place, whether 17th century Holland or 18th century London. In the Late Middle Ages, the centers of European finance were largely in Italy. Many innovations in finance during this era, from bills of exchange to insurance and double-entry bookkeeping to public bonds, either originated

Loyalty Loan

           During the First World War, governments were financially strained to an unprecedented degree by the costs of war. Across Europe, governments introduced new taxes, including income taxes, suspended the link between gold and paper money, and raised new loans by appealing directly to the patriotism of the public. While these drastic maneuvers in times of

Revolution Rentes

           Throughout the 18th century, French public finances teetered on the brink. The state then found itself in deep financial ruin within a few years of the beginning of the French Revolution, culminating in a default on the debt in 1796-97. With this, the outlook for the next century would hardly seem promising. The 19th century

Dialogus de Scaccario

           In the 12th century, a senior official in the English treasury wrote a book describing the inner workings of his institution, likely for the benefit of decades of successors. It is also of great help to historians. The Dialogus de Scaccario, or ‘Dialogue of the Exchequer’, is a window into the English treasury in the

Mobilizing Credit during WWII

           The Second World War not only pulled American economic output closer to its potential capacity, but also transformed its composition. War-related industries were prioritized and the production and consumption of other goods was controlled by rationing. This is fairly well known. What is less well known are the ways credit was mobilized during the war,

After the Great Fire of London

           In 1666, a fire burned down much of London, leaving tens of thousands homeless and destroying numerous public buildings. The property lost was worth millions of pounds. So, rebuilding was more than a feat in engineering. A financial challenge also needed to be overcome. In the end, the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire

Creating the Consols

           For over a century, perhaps the most significant security in the world was the British consol. One consol was just like any other; for most of their history, they paid 3% interest perpetually. Yet, fifty years before their creation, government borrowing in Britain made use of a broad array of different instruments. Nevertheless, history ultimately

Financing the Second French Indemnity

           After France’s defeat in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the country was billed five billion francs for peace. This ‘indemnity’ was intended to cripple the country, but it failed. The French government was able to pay the demanded reparations faster than expected by refinancing the indemnity with perpetual bonds, or rentes. It succeeded in conducting the

Financing the First French Indemnity

           After being defeated at Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to give up control of France. The treaty that finally ended the long Napoleonic Wars nonetheless imposed on the defeated country responsibility for paying a large indemnity, the first of two in 19th century France. The public finances were in shambles; so, meeting such payments would

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