© 1998

The Economy of Obligation

The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Introduction: Deconstructing Capitalism

    1. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 1-11
  3. Economic Expansion and Structures

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 13-13
    2. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 15-36
    3. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 60-94
    4. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 95-119
  4. The Culture of Credit

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 121-121
    2. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 123-147
    3. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 173-195
  5. Credit and its Discontents

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 197-197
    2. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 199-271
  6. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 313-313
    2. Craig Muldrew
      Pages 315-333
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 335-453

About this book


This book is an excellent work of scholarship. It seeks to redefine the early modern English economy by rejecting the concept of capitalism, and instead explores the cultural meaning of credit, resulting from the way in which it was economically structured. It is a major argument of the book that money was used only in a limited number of exchanges, and that credit in terms of household reputation, was a 'cultural currency' of trust used to transact most business. As the market expanded in the late-sixteenth century such trust became harder to maintain, leading to an explosion of debt litigation, which in turn resulted in social relations being partially redefined in terms of contractual equality.


capitalism commerce England equality Expansion growth sixteenth century

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and CivilizationEuropean University InstituteFlorenceItaly

About the authors

CRAIG MULDREW is Lecturer in the History Department and member of Queens' College, University of Cambridge. He has been a lecturer at University of Exeter and a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute, Florence.

Bibliographic information


'Craig Muldrew has written an imaginatively conceived and richly researched study of the meaning and practice of credit in early modern England.' - David Harris Sacks, Reed College, Journal of Economic History