Notaries and Domestic Lending in Wartime (Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France)
The role of notaries in domestic lending in France is now well analysed through the researches on private and public credit (Hoffman et al., Priceless markets. The political economy of credit in Paris, 1660–1870. University of Chicago Press, Chicago; Potter and Rosenthal, J Interdiscip Hist 27(4):577–612, 1997; J Econ Hist, 62(4):1024–47, 2002). Their more common tasks consisted in intermediation, expertise and valuation of assets. The particular focus of this study is public credit and, more specifically, securities issued by the Paris City Hall for the King’s needs. These rentes sur l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris were the main long-term debt instrument used by the French Monarchy since 1522. Two critical junctures for the French borrowing policy are examined in order to highlight how notaries acted, not only as intermediaries but also as bankers. The first one is the extension for 11 years (1648–1659) of the conflict between Spain and France which took place after the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). The second is the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) against England. In both cases, debt service was no longer assured, and issuances of new securities were jeopardized. A survey in the minutes of the Parisian notaries, who acted as financial intermediaries on primary and secondary markets for public (as well as private) debt, offers a mean to observe how they helped the Monarchy to borrow and to deal with liquidity problems in time of financial distress. This key role of Parisian notaries in lending to the Monarchy provides insight into not only the unobservable part of the resale market of securities but also the worsening financial situation of France during a century (1660–1760). The involvement of notaries allowed the Monarchy to mobilize money quickly in wartime, to face liquidity problems, in a strong connection with both savers and the financial world. In this chapter, I only analyse the part of these services corresponding to a shadow banking system, as well as his implications for the financial stability of both Monarchy and notaries themselves.
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