A medieval credit crunch


By Adrian R. Bell, Chris Brooks and Tony Moore, published 19th July 2009

The project: A three-year research project started in December 2007 with the aim of investigating the credit arrangements of a succession of English monarchs with a number of Italian merchant societies. The study, based at the ICMA Centre, University of Reading, is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The work of the project has already allowed us to analyse the nature of these financing arrangements, drawing comparisons with more recent developments in finance and events in the financial markets.

It has long been recognised by historians that medieval English monarchs made use of sophisticated cross-border credit  arrangements to finance government and warfare. In particular, at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, successive English kings formed relationships with the merchant societies of Italy, the most advanced financial organisations of the day. According to Edmund Fryde, the credit system employed by the  English Crown worked successfully for around 70 years, beginning in the reign of Edward I (1272) and lasting into the early years of the Hundred Years War and the reign of his grandson, Edward III (circa 1340)...

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