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Scholastic Monetary Thought: 1300–1600

  • Barry Gordon

Abstract

Aquinas and his near contemporaries had written against a background of unprecedented economic development in Europe. By the thirteenth century, a reorganisation of older feudal economic relationships in terms of new capitalistic principles had spread from its birthplaces, the towns of Northern Italy, to many other regions of the Continent. France, Germany, Flanders, and even England, felt the impact of the new modes of organisation. Populations had expanded steadily from about the year 1000, and a fresh growth of urban centres accompanied the expansion. In Germany alone, during the thirteenth century some 400 new towns were established. Such centres provided fertile grounds for industrial and financial innovation and, as a modern historian observes, ‘With the growth of urban industry and trade there emerged the whole complex of a capitalist system, such as partnerships, joint liability, banking, double-entry bookkeeping, bills of exchange and letters of credit.’1

Keywords

Sixteenth Century Interest Payment Thirteenth Century Fourteenth Century Monetary Theory 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    J.Gilchrist, The Church and Economic Activity in the Middle Ages ( London, Macmillan, 1969 ) p. 26.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo: (II) Science in the Early Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, 2nd cd (London, Heinemann, 1961 ) pp. 109–10.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
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  4. 4.
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    H. Estrup, ‘Oresme and Monetary Theory’, The Scandinavian Economic History Review XIV, 2 (1966) p. 97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    A much earlier French writer who might be held to be an important precursor of their thought is Peter Cantor (d. 1197), professor of theology and Chanter of Notre Dame. His Summa ide sacramentir et anime consiliis includes discussion of currency regulation by rulers, the desirability of maintaining stable money values,and the difficulties engendered by currency manipulation. See John W. Baldwin, Masters, Princes and Merchants, Vol. I ( Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1970 ) pp. 241–4.Google Scholar
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    Another nominalist of some note who followed Buridan’s views on money was Henry of Hesse (Heinrich von Langenstein, 1325–97), a German theologian who taught at both Paris and Vienna. See A. E. Monroe, Monetary Theory Before Adam Smith ( Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1923 ) p. 26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    Gabriel Biel, Treatise on the Power and Utility of Moneys trans. R. B. Burke (Philadelphia, 1930) pp. 31–2. An anticipation of the principle that the prince should consult the community is present . in the Apparatus super libros decretalium of the canonist Sinabaldus Fliscus who reigned as Pope Innocent IV, 1243–54. However, in this instance the principle was applied in the context of a discussion of the prince’s right of seigniorage.Google Scholar
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    R. de Roover, San Bernardino of Siena and Sant’ Antonino of Florence ( Boston, Baker Library, 1967 ) p. 31.Google Scholar
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    On these issues see, H. L. Johnston, ‘Some Medieval Doctrines on Extrinsic Titles to Interest’, in C. J. O’Neil (ed.) An Etienne Gilson Tribute (Marquette University Press, 1959) pp. 96–8, andGoogle Scholar
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    On these issues, see B. Tierney, ‘The Decretists and the “Deserving Poor” ’, Comparative Studies in Society and History I (1958–9) pp. 360–73,J. Gilchrist, op. cit., pp. 209–15, and J. T. Noonan, op. cit., pp. 60–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 38.
    Raymond de Roover, San Bernardino of Siena and Sant’ Antonino of Florence (Boston, Baker Library, 1967) p. 36. De Roover observes that Bernardine’s Dominican contemporary, St Antonine, discusses cambium at some length, but is ‘more uncompromising than the Sienese friar’. Of Antonine’s views on cambium per litteram, exchange by bills, de Roover writes that his moral ‘advice, if followed, would have abolished banking altogether, a rather strange attitude on the part of the archbishop of the leading banking center in Western Europe.’ (p. 37). On the banking system of Florence at this time, see the same author’s The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank, 1397–1494 ( Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1963 ).Google Scholar
  16. 39.
    J. Nider, On the Contracts of Merchants trans. Charles H. Reeves, (Norman, Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) p. 50. See also p. 27.Google Scholar
  17. 48.
    Cf. Reijo Wilenius, The Social and Political Theory of Francisco Suarez (Helsinki, Societas Philosophica Fennica, 1963) p. 113: Renaissance Scholasticism, however, was not a purely Thomistic movement. It was also influenced by the via moderna, the nominalistic movement which signifies a change from ‘constructive’ to ‘analytical’ thinking, from metaphysics to the knowledge of ‘individual things’.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleAustralia

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