“Public Debt” in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Notion, Phenomenon and Its Interpretations
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“Public Debt” in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Notion, Phenomenon and Its Interpretations
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The 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.
medieval and early modern government borrowing, financial revolution, renten/rentes, public debt, public credit, kings’ debts, A. N. Chistozvonov
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