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State Cash Resources and State Building in Europe 13th-18th century

 | 
Katia Béguin
, 
Anne L. Murphy

Markets for Public Debt Securities

The Social Logic of Genoese Public Debt Before the Casa di San Giorgio (Thirteenth–Fifteenth Century)

Jeffrey Miner

Texte intégral

  • 1 For a survey, see Steven A. Epstein, Genoa and the Genoese 958–1528, Chapel Hill (NC), University o (...)
  • 2 Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast, ‘Constitutions and commitment: the evolution of institutio (...)
  • 3 David Stasavage, States of credit: size, power and the development of European polities, Princeton, (...)

1Medieval Genoa is probably best known for two things: its spectacular commercial success, due in part to the early adoption of new forms of credit (especially public credit) and its tormented political history.1 As such, it offers an interesting case with which to explore an issue of importance to contemporary scholarly discussions of public credit: how can a sovereign with coercive authority and the power to alter the law credibly commit to lenders that he will repay their loans and not simply default? The locus classicus for these discussions is England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688, which is supposed to have ushered in parliamentary constraint on the English monarchy, lowering the crown’s borrowing costs by preventing default.2 While monarchies have attracted the lion’s share of attention, recent work has pointed out that republics, too, suffered from similar problems of commitment.3 In Genoa’s case, how was it possible that a city government whose merchant elite was deeply divided and whose ruler was always in need of money did not raid the funds assigned to pay the long-term debt wholesale, or more selectively plunder shares belonging to rival factions?

  • 4 On the sources, Domenico Gioffrè, Il debito pubblico genovese. Inventario delle compere anteriori a (...)
  • 5 For the history of Genoese public credit, the fundamental reference remains Heinrich Johann Sieveki (...)
  • 6 Michele Fratianni, ‘Government debt, reputation and creditors’ protections: the tale of San Giorgio (...)

2This chapter considers the period before the founding of the Casa di San Giorgio (approximately 1340 to 1407), which is understudied, partially because of the difficult nature of the sources, and partly because it is a period that Genoese scholars often neglect in favour of the more celebrated periods of commercial ascendance in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and financial ascendance in the sixteenth.4 The division and decline that characterize this period are useful, however, because they illustrate the problem of commitment, institutions and social structure particularly clearly. In 1407, the Genoese began a process that would ultimately unite all of the commune’s long-term debts into a single institution, stabilizing, and centralizing relations between the city and its citizen-creditors.5 The Casa, the final product of the 1407 reform, was supervised by eight officers or Protectors, chosen from among the largest shareholders in the commune’s debts. In addition to administering the debts, the Protectors also advised the doge and council about financial matters. This gave the city’s creditors a strong voice in the conduct of public affairs and no doubt constituted an important platform from which the city’s oligarchy could actively intervene in the fiscal policies of the commune.6 In 1407, however, some of Genoa’s debts were already over a century old and had survived war, social upheaval, a long series of political coups, and the burning (twice) of the list of the state’s creditors during popular uprisings.

  • 7 For the career of one of the more successful doges, who served four terms as ‘doge for life’, see E (...)

3After 1407, the Casa ensured that the creditors were strong, independently organized and able to pressure the commune to do what they wanted. Before this date, it is not clear that the same conditions held. Genoa’s elite was deeply divided politically between Guelph and Ghibelline and socially between the nobility and the popolo. As a result, the later fourteenth century saw an endless parade of doges. Though they were ostensibly elected for life, many were also summarily ejected from power – some only sat on the doge’s seat for a matter of hours before fleeing.7 Since these regimes inevitably had short-term horizons, they were under constant pressure to hire more soldiers to keep their grip on power. Thus, rejected requests for money to hire more guards was a sure sign that a doge’s term was near its expiration.

  • 8 See chapter 6 of Jeffrey D. Miner, ‘Lest we break faith with our creditors: public debt and civic c (...)

4This period also saw a rise in the number of disputes between distinct bodies of creditors over the income from taxes.8 The income from the communal monopoly on salt, in particular, was divided between the commune and multiple groups of creditors, a situation that weakened the ability of any one group of creditors to bargain with each other or the regime. In fact, the creation of the Casa di San Giorgio, at times ascribed to the strength of the creditors, was more probably a response by the creditors to their institutional weakness, as internal disputes forced recognition that dividing single taxes among multiple groups favoured struggle over cooperation.

  • 9 David Stasavage, States of credit: size, power, and the development of European polities, Princeton (...)
  • 10 For the classic statement of their position on representative assemblies, see North and Weingast. (...)

5This picture may be a bit too stark, but it is nevertheless remarkable that the city’s loans survived the troubled fourteenth century at all. Consultative institutions must provide part of the answer, for even before the founding of the Casa it was standard practice to summon different deliberative bodies as part of the political process. Although these practices were essential to protecting communal debt, Stasavage is no doubt correct to hold that veto-points and consultation alone cannot explain Genoa’s ability to borrow.9 However, his work, like that of North and Weingast,10 does not address the question of motivation: what reason did a merchant aristocracy that was committed to intense political competition have to cooperate and leave this form of wealth out of factional struggle? The answer lies in the market for shares and the particular purposes that communal debt served in the patrimonial strategies of Genoa’s elite, regardless of party affiliation.

I. The Social and Moral Valence of Genoa’s Public Debt

  • 11 For the fifteenth century, see Christine Shaw, ‘Counsel and consent in 15th-century Genoa’, English (...)
  • 12 Archivio di Stato di Genova (ASG), Manoscritti, Membranaceo VII 19r.
  • 13 ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo IV 344r.

6In seeking to understand why a merchant oligarchy that had a difficult time agreeing on anything could sustain the solidarity needed to contract long-term loans, it is easiest to begin with the content of the political deliberations themselves to see what the Genoese valued about their communal debt. Multiple times during the later fourteenth century, one or more of Genoa’s loans found itself in difficulty. In these cases, as in political life generally, it was standard practice to call together a body of citizens to discuss the options and offer a recommendation.11 One of the common refrains during these proceedings was the need to look out for the interests of widows and orphans who depended on interest from Genoa’s debts to sustain them.12 In fact, the foundation of the Casa di San Giorgio was justified by an appeal to the need for good governance so that widows, orphans, the religious and ‘other miserable persons’ might benefit from the better organization of the city’s debts.13

  • 14 For the source data, see J. D. Miner, ‘Lest we break faith…’, op. cit., p. 189.

7It would be easy to read this as pure rhetoric, with Genoa’s wealthy elite cynically invoking the interests of the poor to justify acting in the interests of the rich. However, this was not the case. Genoa’s merchant elite was concerned to keep the commune’s debts running smoothly because they were legitimately concerned about widows and orphans – not poor widows and orphans, but their own sisters, nieces, nephews and future children. A profile of the commune’s creditors bears out this impression. In a broad sample from 1367, there were 1,440 men listed as city creditors, 1,498 women, and 200 groups of heirs.14

  • 15 Data drawn from a comparison of the Great Venetian Loan in 1353–1354 and 1367. ASG, Compere e mutui (...)

8When loans were first imposed, they roughly reflected the distribution of property in the city, although inflected by fraud, political influence and other considerations.15 As a result, the initial participants were overwhelmingly male (3,177 names), with the exception of a few women and groups of heirs standing in as heads of household (441 names). Within a short time, however, the distribution of shares began to split much more evenly along gendered lines (373 men, 438 women, 98 groups). At the same time, many of the smaller creditors disappeared, their shares bought up and added to those of the elite, leading to a marked decline in the number of artisans listed as creditors, for example.

  • 16 This finding is similar to that of Yoko Kamenaga Anzai, who considered only the records of a single (...)

9None of this should come as a surprise, but its implications for the political process are critical. When the Genoese discussed the system of communal borrowing, how it should operate, whom it should favour, and what action to take when it failed, they articulated their positions not just in terms of the legal or contractual relationship between commune and citizens, but in terms of who held the shares and what they used them for. The prices of shares were eagerly watched and speculative trading certainly occurred, but shares in Genoa’s debts, like annuities elsewhere in Europe, were an ideal vehicle with which to support those who could not legitimately work to support themselves, whether because of their age or their gender.16 Because they had a regular, if fluctuating, yield and were recorded in a central register, this was a safe way to tie up some portion of a family’s wealth to ensure that all its members were adequately provided for. A decision to default or seize shares in the commune’s debts in the name of the regime, then, would not simply have been a risky move politically, it would have been morally suspect because it threatened the interests of the weak.

II. The Market for Shares

  • 17 For a broader discussion of property regimes, see Martha C. Howell, Commerce before capitalism in E (...)

10In order to understand the market for shares and to explain how the city’s debts became the special (though not exclusive) province of dependent members of the elite, it is necessary to look at the unique status these investments held in the economy of the elite more broadly. Shares in Genoa’s debts, like other forms of annuity elsewhere in Europe, shared important characteristics with both land and money, giving them an ambiguous status in medieval theories of property.17 On the one hand, their annual yield made them similar to land or other immovable goods (which could not be freely marketed). On the other, they could easily be reduced to money, bought and sold, like moveable goods (which could be freely marketed). This is not to say that land was never bought and sold, but some kinds of property were socially and legally distinct. Land was a source of status as well as income or revenue, and urban property was a critical part of making one’s family or clan visible socially and politically.

  • 18 These were conserved in ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo IV.
  • 19 ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo VII, 62v, citing this protection among those common to all the comper (...)

11This special status was reflected in legal protection, both for land and communal debt.18 While formally classed as moveable property and freely saleable to whomever might wish to buy them, shares in Genoa’s debts compere were legally protected from seizure by third parties, except in specific circumstances. They could be claimed as part of a dowry or marriage gift, as an inheritance by a legitimate heir, if specifically authorized by a will, or as compensation for robbery, with authorization from a communal magistrate.19 This helps to explain why shares appear only sporadically in wills from the period. This was not because shareholding was rare or because shares were never inherited, but rather because the law ensured that this property would pass to legitimate heirs without issue. When wills did mention shares specifically, it was often because they were passing outside the family (donated to a religious institution, for example).

12At the same time, transfers and stipulations were easily made, requiring only a verbal or written instruction to the scribe in charge of the register of creditors, rather than a formal notarial contract. This allowed the Genoese to effectively control the way this property circulated, in and out of the family.

13The distinction between moveable and immoveable was not always easy to draw and no matter how it was drawn, a share in a debt straddled the line. This ambiguity is precisely what made communal debt useful and what embedded it so deeply in elite property transactions. This is made clear by examining the obligations or encumbrances which Genoa’s creditors used to control the uses to which their shares might be put. Although the legal regime shaped the trade in shares for family use, some creditors were not content with the general provisions that would keep their shares in the family.

14Although shares in communal debt were protected by a general, pro-lineage set of legal rules, there were means by which individuals could employ shares for much more specific purposes. The same sample cited above, from 1367, showed that about a quarter of the commune’s debts were obligated, meaning they carried a specific set of instructions about how they could or could not be used. These were not always stated clearly – many simply noted that the share in question was obligated ‘as in the other’, meaning that scribes did not always copy the instructions over from one year’s records to the next.

  • 20 For example, ASG, Compere e mutui, 1026, 149r.
  • 21 On dowry competition and the limitation of the marriage gift in Genoa, see Diane Owen Hughes, ‘Urba (...)
  • 22 For an instructive case, see ASG, Notai antichi, 353, #10.

15When such obligations were made explicit, a few uses stand out. First, shares were often used as part of a woman’s dowry, or as a form of security for an as-yet-unpaid dowry.20 The dowry was a socially and economically fraught institution in late medieval and early modern Italy. A woman’s natal family put its honor and status on the line in providing a dowry, for the endowment’s size provided a visible demonstration of the family’s wealth and influence to her husband and the city generally.21 At the same time, any provision of a dowry inevitably struck at the property that might be passed to the bride’s brothers or other male relatives. Tension was not resolved once a woman moved to her husband’s family. When husband or wife died, trying to separate her property from his while apportioning inheritance was a site of frequent contestation and struggle.22 By giving a woman a dowry in the form of communal debt, her family could ensure her the small income she would need to live in decent (unmarried) widowhood should her husband die and also eased the process of transferring her property to her children, brothers or other heirs upon her death by marking her dowry off in advance. The content of obligations on inheritance bears this out. Brothers required sisters to get their consent before using their shares; women prevented husbands from seizing shares after their death by specifically stipulating they should return to their natal kin. Along with dowry pledges, inheritance restrictions helped to shepherd a family’s resources past critical transitional moments in the life cycle of the household: inheritance, marriage, transfer of property, and reaching financial independence.

  • 23 For these rules, see the law code reproduced in the Historiae patriae monumenta (vol. 18, 1901), ci (...)
  • 24 ASG, Compere e mutui, 1026, 151r, 164v.

16Not only could the commune’s debts be used to shield the patrimony from outside claims, it could also facilitate increases in the patrimony itself. About 10% of the obligations were a defensio, or pledge of shares as security in the sale of real property. Commerce could make one wealthy, but money did not confer status by itself, nor did it provide the kind of stable foundation for a family that only land and urban property could. However, buying immobile goods was a tricky proposition. Even if one purchased land or a house, relatives of the seller could show up at any point within ten years to claim compensation for their part of the property that had been sold.23 By using shares, individuals and families could grease the wheels of exchange in the land market by providing a stable fund out of which any future claimants could be satisfied without prejudice to the buyer. This device was especially useful for transferring female-owned property into their husband’s family. A husband or his relative could buy land from his wife and provide a fund out of which her male relatives could receive compensation, facilitating his own attempts to accumulate more status-conferring property.24 In this case, communal debt encouraged the transformation of one kind of wealth (commercial profit) into another (landed investment).

  • 25 On the importance of seizure for debt for other kinds of goods, see Daniel Lord Smail, ‘Violence an (...)

17This process had limits: fourteenth-century Genoa did not become home to a rentier class, dependent on annuities for the bulk of its income. Investment in the city’s debts no doubt remained a minority in the overall assets of a family. It was, however, an essential form of wealth because it allowed individuals to mediate more effectively between different kinds of property as well as to transfer property more smoothly between generations. It goes without saying that communal debt was the subject of competitive buying and selling, even of speculation. It was not, however, particularly used for commercial purposes. While communal debt was often posted as collateral in the city’s tax-farming system (around 20% of the identifiable obligations), only very rarely was it used as collateral in commercial transactions (less than 3%). Indeed, one could read the legal protections granted to communal debt as specifically excluding the possibility of their seizure for debt.25 For those obligations that we can identify, lineage and family uses appear to predominate over strictly commercial uses.

  • 26 See Fratianni, ‘Government debt…’, op. cit.

18Thus, the political rhetoric surrounding the need to protect the city’s debts turns out to have been very much in earnest. If the needs of families appeared most prominently in civic deliberation, it was precisely because this was central to the function of communal debt, regardless of party or factional affiliation. This point bears emphasizing, because it has often been assumed that the advent of negotiability inevitably meant the creation of a financial market in an abstract sense, one in which interest rates serve as a measure of the state’s credibility in financing its debts.26

19Quantifiable data that can be compared easily across context – prices, interest rates – have tended to draw the most attention, precisely because the records make counting relatively easy, if laborious. Just because interest rates can be quantified, however, does not necessarily mean that they were the product of market forces. Indeed, the commonly accepted term for trade in public debt – secondary market – begs the question of whether the circulation of property among the elite more generally was market-driven or not. The records of Genoa’s creditors, by contrast, show that the movement of shares was governed as much by social competition, the legal framework and the needs of Genoa’s elite as by considerations of price and yield. If Genoa’s doges and councils continued to affirm the need to preserve its long-term debt, it is because those debts came to form a critical part of how elite patrimonies were accumulated, divided and shared out.

Conclusion

20Given the state of research and the sources, this chapter is limited to a preliminary, rather than a definitive finding, for there remain hundreds of untouched registers devoted to lists of Genoa’s creditors for the fourteenth century to explore before we can reach a conclusive account of the trade in government debt. However, a few conclusions present themselves.

  • 27 The prohibition on usury, for example, is seen by Munro as decisive for the particular forms of bor (...)
  • 28 For one attempt by an institutional economist to account for beliefs and values in an economic fram (...)

21First, the trade in shares is often treated as a secondary phenomenon, with analyses of government indebtedness focusing more on the political or moral factors that shaped the provision of public credit.27 The Genoese example, by contrast, suggests that primary phenomena – political choices about how to administer debts, provision to secure commitment between sovereign borrower and subject lender – were strongly influenced by cultural and social values that expressed themselves in the ‘secondary’ market.28 Without a full consideration of the actual dynamics of representative political institutions, we may be able to understand how constraint worked in theory, but not why, or why particular institutional configurations fail in practice. In Genoa’s case, for the merchant oligarchy to restrain the doge, they needed to be more motivated to constrain the doge than to collude with him and dismantle or manipulate the system of public debt in favour of their own faction. This motivation came from the widespread use of shares: the entire elite counted on the public debt to play key roles in transferring patrimony horizontally between family members and vertically between generations.

  • 29 See, for example, Luciano Pezzolo, ‘Government debts and credit markets in Renaissance Italy’, in F (...)
  • 30 For an account of the institution, see Julius Kirshner, ‘Pursuing honor while avoiding sin. The mon (...)
  • 31 On the utility of systems theory for studies of public finance, see Jean-Claude Waquet, Le grand-du (...)

22Second, regarding the development of financial markets in the medieval and early modern period: we need a fuller set of quantitative data, but we also need a better comparative framework. Constructing long-term series of prices or interest rates is an invaluable part of studying the circulation of public debt in society.29 Nevertheless, this cannot be considered a full account of the trade in debt. The basic points of comparison – size of the debt, interest paid, frequency of transfers, distribution of the shares among the population generally and among the elite – are essential, but we cannot track the development of these debts without a holistic sense of how this unique and flexible form of property interacted with social expectations, the legal framework and individual strategies prevailing in different environments. It may be significant that the best-known component of Florence’s communal debt was the Monte delle doti, an institution that was intended simultaneously to reduce the city’s level of debt and to provide dowries for its girls through a complicated debt-redemption scheme.30 Even if the Monte functioned in practice more like a pyramid scheme than an investment plan, Florentines still regarded it as the ‘heart’ of their republic. Genoa used no such institution formally, but the close association between public power and female property appears strikingly similar. Before we can understand the development of public indebtedness, we should consider the role it played broadly in both public and private life, rather than simply reconstructing balance sheets or interest series.31

  • 32 Similarly, Julius Kirshner questions whether the compere and similar institutions should even be ca (...)

23Given the pattern outlined above, it is even open to question whether the term ‘secondary market’, drawn from the contemporary vocabulary of public finance, best describes the circulation of communal debt in the pre-modern world.32 Obviously, public debts enabled new and interesting forms of speculation, sale and other forms of profit-making. As we consider the development of these institutions, however, we must account for both market and non-market uses of public debt rather than simply assuming that the transmission of shares automatically implies the existence of a true financial market. If Genoa and other pre-modern states succeeded in making long-term borrowing a key piece of public finance, it was not because they chose forward-looking markets and speculation over backward-looking inheritance and patrimonial practices. Instead, their success was due to the possibility that flexible, widely held debt instruments were simultaneously useful for a wide variety of purposes, rather than simply anticipating those of the modern world.

Notes

1 For a survey, see Steven A. Epstein, Genoa and the Genoese 958–1528, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

2 Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast, ‘Constitutions and commitment: the evolution of institutions governing public choice in 17th-century England’, Journal of Economic History, 49, 1989.

3 David Stasavage, States of credit: size, power and the development of European polities, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2011.

4 On the sources, Domenico Gioffrè, Il debito pubblico genovese. Inventario delle compere anteriori a San Giorgio o non consolidate nel Banco (Sec. XIV–XIX), Milan, A. Giuffrè, 1967. For the most detailed consideration of Genoa under its first doge, Giovanna Petti Balbi, Simon Boccanegra e la Genova del ‘300, Genoa, Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 1995.

5 For the history of Genoese public credit, the fundamental reference remains Heinrich Johann Sieveking, Studio sulle finanze genovesi nel medioevo e in particolare sulla Casa di San Giorgio, Genoa: Tipografia del Gioventù, 2 vols., 1905–1906.

6 Michele Fratianni, ‘Government debt, reputation and creditors’ protections: the tale of San Giorgio’, Review of Finance, 10, 2006.

7 For the career of one of the more successful doges, who served four terms as ‘doge for life’, see Emanuel P. Wardi, Le strategie familiari di un Doge di Genova: Antoniotto Adorno (1378–1398), Turin, Pavaria-Scriptorium, 1996.

8 See chapter 6 of Jeffrey D. Miner, ‘Lest we break faith with our creditors: public debt and civic culture in fourteenth-century Genoa’, doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 2011.

9 David Stasavage, States of credit: size, power, and the development of European polities, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2011. For Stasavage’s position on representative assemblies, see pp. 56; on Genoa, pp. 117124.

10 For the classic statement of their position on representative assemblies, see North and Weingast. “Constitutions and commitment…’, op. cit.

11 For the fifteenth century, see Christine Shaw, ‘Counsel and consent in 15th-century Genoa’, English Historical Review, 116, 2001; eadem, ‘Principles and practice in the civic government of 15th-century Genoa’, Renaissance Quarterly, 58, 2005.

12 Archivio di Stato di Genova (ASG), Manoscritti, Membranaceo VII 19r.

13 ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo IV 344r.

14 For the source data, see J. D. Miner, ‘Lest we break faith…’, op. cit., p. 189.

15 Data drawn from a comparison of the Great Venetian Loan in 1353–1354 and 1367. ASG, Compere e mutui, 1018, 1019, 1026.

16 This finding is similar to that of Yoko Kamenaga Anzai, who considered only the records of a single family. Yoko Kamenaga Anzai, ‘Attitudes toward public debt in medieval Genoa: the Lomellini family’, Journal of Medieval History, 29, 2003.

17 For a broader discussion of property regimes, see Martha C. Howell, Commerce before capitalism in Europe, 1300–1600, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010; eadem, ‘Marital property law as socio-cultural text: the case of late-medieval Douai’, in Philip L. Reynolds and John Witte (ed.), To have and to hold: marrying and its documentation in western Christendom, 499–1600, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

18 These were conserved in ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo IV.

19 ASG, Manoscritti, Membranaceo VII, 62v, citing this protection among those common to all the compere.

20 For example, ASG, Compere e mutui, 1026, 149r.

21 On dowry competition and the limitation of the marriage gift in Genoa, see Diane Owen Hughes, ‘Urban growth and family structure in medieval Genoa’, Past and Present, 66, 1975. In later periods, complaints about the expense of dowrying women were ubiquitous at the same time that competition was inevitable (see Anthony Molho, Marriage alliance in late medieval Florence, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1994). For a comparative examination of the role of competition in the distribution of societies practicing dowry and brideprice or marriage gift, see Steven J. C. Gaulin and James S. Boster, ‘Dowry as female competition’, American Anthropologist, 92, 1990.

22 For an instructive case, see ASG, Notai antichi, 353, #10.

23 For these rules, see the law code reproduced in the Historiae patriae monumenta (vol. 18, 1901), cited in Edoardo Grendi, ‘Profilo storico degli alberghi genovesi’, Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome. Moyen âge, Temps modernes, 87, 1975, p. 250.

24 ASG, Compere e mutui, 1026, 151r, 164v.

25 On the importance of seizure for debt for other kinds of goods, see Daniel Lord Smail, ‘Violence and predation in late medieval Mediterranean Europe’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 54, 2012.

26 See Fratianni, ‘Government debt…’, op. cit.

27 The prohibition on usury, for example, is seen by Munro as decisive for the particular forms of borrowing prevalent in northern versus southern Europe. John H. A. Munro, ‘The medieval origins of the financial revolution: usury, rentes, and negotiability’, International History Review, 25, 2003; John H. A. Munro, ‘The usury doctrine and urban public finances in late-medieval Flanders (1220–1550): rentes (annuities), excise taxes, and income transfers from the poor to the rich’, in Simonetta Cavaciocchi (ed.), La Fiscalità nell’economia Europea secc. XIII–XVIII: fiscal systems in the European economy from the 13th to the 18th centuries, Florence, Florence University Press, 2007.

28 For one attempt by an institutional economist to account for beliefs and values in an economic framework, see Avner Greif, Institutions and the path to the modern economy: lessons from medieval trade, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

29 See, for example, Luciano Pezzolo, ‘Government debts and credit markets in Renaissance Italy’, in Fausto Piola Caselli (ed.), Government debts and financial markets in Europe, London, Pickering and Chatto, 2008; Luciano Pezzolo, ‘The Venetian government debt, 1350–1650’, in Marc Boone, Karel Davids and Paul Janssens (ed.), Urban public debts: urban government and the market for annuities in western Europe (14th–18th centuries), Turnhout, Brepols, 2003.

30 For an account of the institution, see Julius Kirshner, ‘Pursuing honor while avoiding sin. The monte delle doti of Florence’, Studi senesi, 89, 1977. For an exploration of the fund in Florentine marriage practices, see Julius Kirshner and Anthony Molho, ‘The dowry fund and the marriage market in early quattrocento Florence’, Journal of Modern History, 50, 1978; A. Molho, Marriage alliance…, op. cit.

31 On the utility of systems theory for studies of public finance, see Jean-Claude Waquet, Le grand-duché de Toscane sous les derniers Médicis: essai sur le système des finances et la stabilité des institutions dans les anciens États italiens, Rome, École française de Rome, 1990.

32 Similarly, Julius Kirshner questions whether the compere and similar institutions should even be called ‘public debts’. Julius Kirshner, ‘States of debt’, paper presented to the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Debt, Sovereignty and Power, Cambridge, November 2006.

Auteur

Jeffrey Miner is Assistant Professor of History at Western Kentucky University. He specializes in late medieval Italian history, with a broad interest in pre-modern social and economic change in Europe and the Mediterranean. His 2011 dissertation, ‘“Lest we break faith with our creditors”. Public debt and civic culture in 14th-century Genoa’, examined how the late medieval explosion of public indebtedness inflected private wealth and public life in one of the Mediterranean’s most active and prosperous ports.

© Institut de la gestion publique et du développement économique, 2017

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