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Debt in Preindustrial Europe

Research project This project examines the paradigms of private credit and debt in early modern Europe from 1500 to 1800, with particular reference to French rural communities.

In early modern Europe, credit and debt were the two most essential features of economic exchange. Warding off temporary shortages in the cycle of agrarian economic activity constituted the primary function of credit in traditional societies. But in the early modern period, economic development, characterized by substantial growth, notably thanks to improvements emerging in a period of proto-industrialization and boosts in agricultural output, also required more capital and financial exchange for further investments, engendering growing indebtedness. Credit was therefore an essential financial tool for millions of Europeans, either to sustain their investments or to make ends meet. The aim of this research project is to examine the paradigms of private credit and debt in early modern Europe from 1500 to 1800, with particular reference to French rural communities (more than 80% of the population), using an interdisciplinary method of analysis.

Head of project

Elise Dermineur Reuterswärd
Associate professor (on leave)
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2015-07-01 2020-06-30

Funding

The Swedisch Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious studies, Faculty of Arts

Research area

History

Project description

In early modern Europe, credit and debt were the two most essential features of economic exchange. Warding off temporary shortages in the cycle of agrarian economic activity constituted the primary function of credit in traditional societies. But in the early modern period, economic development, characterized by substantial growth, notably thanks to improvements emerging in a period of proto-industrialization and boosts in agricultural output, also required more capital and financial exchange for further investments, engendering growing indebtedness. Credit was therefore an essential financial tool for millions of Europeans, either to sustain their investments or to make ends meet.

The aim of this research project is to examine the paradigms of private credit and debt in early modern Europe from 1500 to 1800, with particular reference to French rural communities (more than 80% of the population), using an interdisciplinary method of analysis. As a case study, I have selected several rural areas located throughout the French kingdom. There, peasants traded, exchanged, and lived in traditional communities. The sample encompasses various types of economies.

This project is centred on four key points: the mechanisms of private credit and debt (I), the meaning of indebtedness (II), the significance of women’s participation and gender in financial exchanges (III), and the role and weight of emotions in these transactions (IV).