The History of Credit

  • Steven Finlay


While it is easy to think of credit as a modern phenomena based around a culture of mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and so on, credit granting has existed since pre-historic times. It ranks alongside prostitution and brewing as one of the ‘oldest professions’ and over the ages has probably generated as much controversy and debate as either. It is easy to imagine the concept of ‘I’ll pay you tomorrow!’ developing almost as soon as barter and trade evolved and it is likely that credit in a rudimentary form existed prior to the introduction of formal monetary systems. It is also possible that one factor in the development of currency was a need to express debt in a standardized form (Einzig 1966 pp. 362–6). The idea of lending on interest or usury1 as it was traditionally known has origins of a similar age. Loans would be granted in the form of grain or livestock which had a propensity to reproduce and increase over time, and the lender naturally came to expect some share of the increase when the loan was repaid.


Interest Rate Credit Card Consumer Credit Building Society Mail Order 
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© Steven Finlay 2005

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  • Steven Finlay

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