Research & Current Projects

Debt in Pre-Industrial Europe

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 (see map). There, peasants traded, exchanged, and lived in traditional communities. The sample encompasses various types of economies.

I intend to use a wide array of sources such as loans, land transactions, probate records, parish records, and court records from 1500 to 1800.Scholars have neglected cross-analysis, using different types of sources, in the study of debt and credit. Examining and cross-referencing several types of sources will offer a broad view of private credit and will highlight many different features that might not have emerged using only one type of document. I am particularly interested in change and transition observable over time.

 This project is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond through a Pro Futura Scientia fellowship.