The Evolution of Credit Networks in Pre-Industrial Finland.

Scandinavian Economic History Review, accepted for publication

This paper examines the specificities of interpersonal credit networks in both a rural and an urban setting in pre-industrial Finland. To analyze peer-to-peer lending, the article studies a sample of 1,047 probate inventories from the town of Kristinestad and its surrounding rural area, the parish of Lappfjärd. These probate inventories feature more than 5,000 credit relations between households for the period 1850-1855 and 1905-1914. This paper also concerns itself with the changes pertaining to the advent of banking institutions in the mid-nineteenth century. Traditional behavioural sciences argue that formal institutions replaced informal ones because they are more efficient, more inclusive, or both. No longer needed, informal institutions are supposed to have disappeared when formal ones emerged. But this argument does not consider the social context – or embeddedness, a term coined by Granovetter – and the individuals evolving in it. Embeddedness does not disappear. Therefore, one may ask how banks penetrated communities and the credit networks that were already in place in order to supplant private lending. Tools from social network analysis help to draw insights into the features and changes pertaining to credit networks.

 

Keywords

Credit, financial markets, debt, pre-industrial Finland, networks