The Structure of Credit Networks

  • Craig Muldrew
Part of the Early Modern History: Society and Culture book series

Abstract

Almost all buying and selling involved credit of one form or another — whether it was a husbandman selling corn in the marketplace, a cordwainer selling a pair of shoes, a labourer bargaining for a piece of work or a wholesaler importing coal from Newcastle — and it was credit, above all, which dominated the way in which the market was structured and interpreted. Debt and credit are probably almost universal in most societies, and have been certainly been common to Europe throughout its history.4 Credit was common in medieval England, and its significance then, and in the early modern period as well, has certainly been noted by historians.5 Although conceptions of credit before the eighteenth century have tended to concentrate on moneylending,6 the vast majority of credit was, in fact, extended as a normative part of the tens of thousands of daily market sales and services discussed in the last chapter.7 Every household in the country, from those of paupers to the royal household, was to some degree enmeshed within the increasingly complicated webs of credit and obligation with which transactions were communicated.8 Merchants traded on credit; tradesmen sold or worked on credit; and many of these people were in debt to the poor for wages and for small sales, or work done.9 In 1625 Henry Wilkinson claimed that without the ‘casuall debts’ necessary in buying and selling, ‘the life of man doth not consist’, and Defoe stated that English tradesmen managed most trade ‘by the force of their credit’ and claimed that he knew a man who carried on business worth £40,000 a year with only £1000 of stock.10

Keywords

Corn Dust Europe Income Expense 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 7.
    B.A. Holderness, ‘Credit in a rural community, 1660–1800’, Midland History, 3 (1975), p. 94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 13.
    Holderness, ‘Credit in a rural community’, pp. 94–115; B.A. Holderness, ‘Credit in English rural society before the nineteenth century, with special reference to the period 1650–1720’, The Agricultural History Review, 24 (1976), pp. 97–109; Kerridge, Trade and Banking, pp. 94–9.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    G.D. Ramsey (ed.), John Isham’s Accounts 1558–1572, Northamptonshire Record Society, XXI (1962), pp. 155–65.Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558–1641 (Oxford, 1965), p. 543; Blackwood, The Lancashire Gentry and the Great Rebellion 1640–60, Chetham Society (1978), pp. 18–21; Edwin F. Gay, ‘the Temples of Stowe and their debts’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 2 (1938–9), pp. 399–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 37.
    Y.S. Brenner, ‘The inflation of prices in England, 1551–1650’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., XV, #2 (1962), p. 270Google Scholar
  6. 38.
    Calculated by assuming that transactions doubled and the prices of these transactions went up by 2.5 times. For complaints about the lack of money in the late sixteenth century, see A. Hassell Smith, Gillian Baker and R.W. Kenney (eds.), The Papers of Nathaniel Bacon of Stifkey, Norfolk Record Society, XLIX (1982), II, 1579–85, pp. 100, 112–13, 118, 124, 193Google Scholar
  7. J.H. Bettey (ed.), Calendar of the Correspondence of the Smyth Family of Ashton Court 1548–1642, Bristol Record Society, 35 (1982), pp. 52, 97.Google Scholar
  8. 51.
    Robert South, Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, IV (Oxford, 1823), p. 487.Google Scholar
  9. Also see, Charles Davenant, Discourses on the Public Revenue and Trade, printed in Charles Whitworth (ed.), The Political and Commercial Works of that Celebrated Writer Charles Davenant (London, 1771), I, p. 152.Google Scholar
  10. 59.
    J.J. Bagley (ed.), The Will, Inventory and Accounts of Robert Walthew of Pemberton, Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, CIX (1965), p. 93.Google Scholar
  11. 63.
    HRO, 21/M65/D8/1-371. The average of 127 yeomen’s estates from Kent after 1672 was £230 3s; Jacqueline Bower, ‘Probate accounts as a source for Kentish early modern economic and social history’, Archaeologica Cantiana CIX (1991), p. 57.Google Scholar
  12. 67.
    David Ibbetson, ‘From property to contract: the transformation of sale in the middle ages’, Journal of Legal History, 13 #1 (1992), pp. 6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 68.
    David Ibbetson, ‘Assumpsit and debt in the early sixteenth century: the origins of the indebitatus count’, Cambridge Law Journal, 41 (1982), pp. 153–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 74.
    Barney Hodger, ‘The old Bristol Tolzey’, Gloucester Countryside, 7 (1951), p. 388.Google Scholar
  15. 90.
    Blundell, Diurnal, pp. I, 29, 44, 99, 102, 199, 201, 265, 288. Also see Pepys, Diary, I, pp. 64, 103, 106, 238; III, p. 29; VI, p. 24; Turner, Diary, pp. 5, 9; Joan Wake and D.C. Webster (eds.), The Letters of Daniel Eaton to the Third Earl of Cardigan 1725–1732, Northamptonshire Record Society, 24 (1971), p. 27.Google Scholar
  16. 102.
    Marjorie Mcintosh, ‘Money lending on the periphery of London, 1300–1600’, Albion, 20 #4 (1988), pp. 557–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 104.
    B.A. Holderness, ‘Widows in pre-industrial society: an essay upon their economic functions’, in Richard M. Smith (ed.), Land, Kinship and Life Cycle (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 435–42; Robert Tittler, ‘Money-lending in the West Midlands: the activities of Joyce Jeffries, 1638–49’, Historical Research 67 (1994), pp. 249–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 105.
    James Alsop, ‘The financial enterprises of Jerome Shelton, a mid-Tudor London adventurer’, Guildhall Studies in London History, 4 (1979), pp. 43–4Google Scholar
  19. 120.
    Hubert Hall (ed.), Select Cases Concerning the Law Merchant 1270–1638, Selden Society, XLVI (1930), pp. ix–lvGoogle Scholar
  20. 123.
    For a discussion of developments in the law of mortgage and the expansion of credit on mortgage in the Restoration, see Frank T. Melton, Sir Robert Clayton and the Origins of English Deposit Banking, 1658–1685 (Cambridge, 1986), chs. 5, 6, 7. Also see B.L. Anderson, ‘The Attorney and the early capital market’, in F. Crouzet (ed.), Capital Formation and the Industrial Revolution (London, 1972), pp. 242–3, 225–8; B.L. Anderson, ‘Provincial aspects of the financial revolution’, Business History, XI, 2 (1960), pp. 12–18.Google Scholar
  21. 127.
    K.G. Davies, ‘Joint-stock investment in the later sevententh century’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., IV (1952), pp. 285Google Scholar
  22. 130.
    Jeake, Diary, pp. 65–73. Also see, H.V. Bowen, ‘Investment and empire in the later eighteenth century: East India stockholding, 1756–1791’, Economic History Review, XLII (1989), pp. 201Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Craig Muldrew 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig Muldrew
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and CivilizationEuropean University InstituteFlorenceItaly

Personalised recommendations