“Public Debt” in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Notion, Phenomenon and Its Interpretations

Publication type Article
Status Published
EditionVolume 5 Issue 6 (29)
AbstractThe article deals with the terminology used in the English-language and Russian-language historiography to denote the phenomenon of medieval and early modern public loans. The article attempts to find an adequate Russian equivalent to the term ‘public debt’ which is referred to in the modern Russian language with the term directly translated into English as ‘state debt’. The development of modern state debt is closely linked with financial revolutions, the earliest having taken place not earlier than during XVI—XVII c. However, in the secondary literature written in English the phenomenon of governmental loans is referred to as public debt regardless of the period and type of borrowing. This term covers medieval Dutch renten, French rentes, English rents, Genoese compere, Venetian prestiti, Florentine and Sienese prestanze, Spanish asientos and juros, etc. Such English word usage might appear from the fact that ‘public’ connotes with ‘res publica’ implying public participation in the matters of a political entity. Nevertheless, Russian term for modern phenomenon does not seem adequate for medieval and early modern one since it appears to be anachronistic and deprived of the idea of people’s participation in financing the needs of the community, initially present in the English term. Meanwhile, neither English nor Russian term implies that there is a difference between republican city-states’ borrowing and kings’ loans. The article also presents two examples of how Russian historians named this medieval phenomenon. Finally, two separate Russian terms are suggested for loans of medieval and early modern republican governments on the one hand, and kings’ debts on the other.
Keywordsmedieval and early modern government borrowing, financial revolution, renten/rentes, public debt, public credit, kings’ debts, A. N. Chistozvonov
Publication date10.11.2014
Number of characters20627
Access to full text of publication

Number of purchasers: 14, views: 4101

Readers community rating: votes 0

  1. Ролова А.Д. Государственный долг и его роль в Флорентийской республике и в Тосканском великом герцогстве // Средние века. Вып. 53. 1990.
  2. Рутенбург В.И. Налогообложение и общественный кредит Флоренции XII–XV веков // Ленинградский гос. ун-т. Ученые записки. Серия истор. наук. Вып. 10. 1941.
  3. Чистозвонов А.Н. Валовой доход крестьянских хозяйств и государственное налогообложение в Голландии в начале XVI в. // Средние века. Вып. 42. 1978.
  4. Чистозвонов А.Н. Сельские ренты в Голландии в конце XV – начале XVI в. как форма ростовщического кредита // Средние века. Вып. 37. 1973.
  5. Bougard P., Wyffels C.U. Les finances de Calais au XIIIe siècle: textes de 1255 à 1302. Bruxelles, 1966.
  6. Day J. Les Douanes de Gênes, 1376-1377. 2 vols. Paris, 1963.
  7. Desportes P. Reims et les Rémois aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles. Paris, 1979.
  8. Dickson P.G.M. The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development of Public Credit 1688-1756. London, 1967.
  9. Drelichman M., Voth H.-J. Lending to the Borrower from Hell. Debt, Taxes, and Default in the Age of Philip II. Princeton, 2014.
  10. Fryde E.B., Fryde M.M. Public Credit, with Special Reference to North-Western Europe // The Cambridge Economic History of England. Vol. III. Economic Organization and Policies in the Middle Ages / Ed. by M.M. Postan, E.E. Rich, E. Miller. Cambridge, 1971 [1-еизд. — 1963].
  11. Historical Introduction to Thomas Wilson’s Discourse Upon Usury by R.H. Tawney. Totnes, 2008 [Электронный ресурс]. Доступ свободный. URL: http://cesc.net/scholarweb/tawney/tawney.pdf (дата обращения: 24.06.2014).
  12. Houtzager D. Hollands lijf- en losrenteleningen vóór 1672. Schiedam, 1950.
  13. Hunt E.S. A New Look at the Dealings of the Bardi and Peruzzi with Edward III // Journal of Economic History. Vol. 50. 1990. № 1.
  14. Munro J.H. The Medieval Origins of the Financial Revolution: Usury, Rentes, and Negotiability // The International History Review. Vol. 25. 2003. № 3.
  15. Munro J.H. The Usury Doctrine and Urban Public Finances in Late-Medieval Flanders (1220-1550): Rentes (Annuities), Excise Taxes, and Income Transfers from the Poor to the Rich // La fiscalità nell'economia europea. Secc. XIII-XVIII / Fiscal Systems in the European Economy from the 13th to the 18th Centuries / Ed. by S. Cavaciocchi. Florence, 2008 [Электронный ресурс]. Доступ свободный. URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/11012/1/MPRA_paper_11012.pdf (дата обращения: 07.07.2014).
  16. Pezzolo L. Bonds and Government Debt in Italian City-States, 1250-1650 // The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations that Created Modern Capital Markets / Ed. by W.N. Goetzmann and K.G. Rouwenhorst. Oxford, 2005.
  17. Stasavage D. Cities, Constitutions, and Sovereign Borrowing in Europe, 1274-1785 // International Organization. Vol. 61. 2007. № 3.
  18. Stasavage D. States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities. Princeton, 2011.
  19. Sylla R. Financial Foundations: Public Credit, the National Bank, and Securities Markets // Founding Choices: American Economic Policy in the 1790s / Ed. by D.A. Irwin and R. Sylla. Chicago, 2011.
  20. Sylla R. Hamilton and the Federalist Financial Revolution, 1789-1795 // The New York Journal of American History. 2004. № 3.
  21. 't Hart M. The United provinces, 1579-1806 // The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, 1200-1815 / Ed. by R. Bonney. Oxford; New York, 1999.
  22. The First Report on Public Credit by Alexander Hamilton (1789) [Электронный ресурс]. Доступ свободный. URL: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/archive/resources/documents/ch08_02.htm (дата обращения: 07.07.2014).
  23. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton / Ed. by H.C. Syrett. 27 vols. New York, 1961–1987.
  24. Tracy J.D. A Financial Revolution in the Habsburg Netherlands. Berkeley, 1985.
  25. Tracy J.D. On the Dual Origins of Long-Term Urban Debt in Medieval Europe // Urban Public Debts: Urban Governments and the Market for Annuities in Western Europe (14th-18th centuries) / Ed. by M. Boone, C.A. Davids, P. Janssens. Turnhout, 2003.

  1. Rolova A.D. Gosudarstvenny dolg i ego rolj v Florentijskoy respublike i v Toskanskom velikom gertsogstve // Srednie veka. Vol. 53. 1990.
  2. Rutenburg V.I. Nalogooblozhenie i obschestvenny kredit Florentsii XII-XV vekov // Leningradsky gos. un-t. Uchenie zapiski. Seriya istor. nauk. Vol. 10. 1941.
  3. ChistozvonovA.N. Valovoy dohod krestjanskih hozjaystv i gosudarstvennoe nalogooblozhenie v Gollandii v nachale XVI v. // Srednieveka. Vol. 42. 1978.
  4. Chistozvonov A.N. Seljskie renti v Gollandii v kontse XV-nachale XVI v. kak forma rostovschicheskogo kreita // Srednie veka. Vol. 37. 1973.

Система Orphus