Lending to the Borrower from Hell

The Princeton Economic History of the Western World

Book 47
Princeton University Press
Free sample

Why do lenders time and again loan money to sovereign borrowers who promptly go bankrupt? When can this type of lending work? As the United States and many European nations struggle with mountains of debt, historical precedents can offer valuable insights. Lending to the Borrower from Hell looks at one famous case--the debts and defaults of Philip II of Spain. Ruling over one of the largest and most powerful empires in history, King Philip defaulted four times. Yet he never lost access to capital markets and could borrow again within a year or two of each default. Exploring the shrewd reasoning of the lenders who continued to offer money, Mauricio Drelichman and Hans-Joachim Voth analyze the lessons from this important historical example.

Using detailed new evidence collected from sixteenth-century archives, Drelichman and Voth examine the incentives and returns of lenders. They provide powerful evidence that in the right situations, lenders not only survive despite defaults--they thrive. Drelichman and Voth also demonstrate that debt markets cope well, despite massive fluctuations in expenditure and revenue, when lending functions like insurance. The authors unearth unique sixteenth-century loan contracts that offered highly effective risk sharing between the king and his lenders, with payment obligations reduced in bad times.


A fascinating story of finance and empire, Lending to the Borrower from Hell offers an intelligent model for keeping economies safe in times of sovereign debt crises and defaults.

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About the author

Mauricio Drelichman is associate professor in the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia and a fellow in the Institutions, Organizations, and Growth program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Hans-Joachim Voth is ICREA Research Professor in the Economics Department at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, where he is also a member of the Centre for Research in International Economics. He is the author of Time and Work in England during the Industrial Revolution and coauthor of Prometheus Shackled.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 19, 2014
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9781400848430
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / Europe / Spain & Portugal
History / General
History / Modern / 16th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Big Problem of Small Change offers the first credible and analytically sound explanation of how a problem that dogged monetary authorities for hundreds of years was finally solved. Two leading economists, Thomas Sargent and François Velde, examine the evolution of Western European economies through the lens of one of the classic problems of monetary history--the recurring scarcity and depreciation of small change. Through penetrating and clearly worded analysis, they tell the story of how monetary technologies, doctrines, and practices evolved from 1300 to 1850; of how the "standard formula" was devised to address an age-old dilemma without causing inflation.

One big problem had long plagued commodity money (that is, money literally worth its weight in gold): governments were hard-pressed to provide a steady supply of small change because of its high costs of production. The ensuing shortages hampered trade and, paradoxically, resulted in inflation and depreciation of small change. After centuries of technological progress that limited counterfeiting, in the nineteenth century governments replaced the small change in use until then with fiat money (money not literally equal to the value claimed for it)--ensuring a secure flow of small change. But this was not all. By solving this problem, suggest Sargent and Velde, modern European states laid the intellectual and practical basis for the diverse forms of money that make the world go round today.


This keenly argued, richly imaginative, and attractively illustrated study presents a comprehensive history and theory of small change. The authors skillfully convey the intuition that underlies their rigorous analysis. All those intrigued by monetary history will recognize this book for the standard that it is.

In the years between the Great Famine of the 1840s and the First World War, Ireland experienced a drastic drop in population: the percentage of adults who never married soared from 10 percent to 25 percent, while the overall population decreased by one third. What accounted for this? For many social analysts, the history of post-Famine Irish depopulation was a Malthusian morality tale where declining living standards led young people to postpone marriage out of concern for their ability to support a family. The problem here, argues Timothy Guinnane, is that living standards in post-Famine Ireland did not decline. Rather, other, more subtle economic changes influenced the decision to delay marriage or not marry at all. In this engaging inquiry into the "vanishing Irish," Guinnane explores the options that presented themselves to Ireland's younger generations, taking into account household structure, inheritance, religion, cultural influences on marriage and family life, and especially emigration.

Guinnane focuses on rural Ireland, where the population changes were most profound, and explores the way the demographic patterns reflect the rural Irish economy, Ireland’s place as a small part in a much larger English-speaking world, and the influence of earlier Irish history and culture. Particular effort is made to compare Irish demographic behavior to similar patterns elsewhere in Europe, revealing an Ireland anchored in European tradition and yet a distinctive society in its own right.

Originally published in 1997.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

After 1688, Britain underwent a revolution in public finance, and the cost of borrowing declined sharply. Leading scholars have argued that easier credit for the government, made possible by better property-rights protection, lead to a rapid expansion of private credit. The Industrial Revolution, according to this view, is the result of the preceding revolution in public finance. In Prometheus Shackled, prominent economic historians Peter Temin and Hans-Joachim Voth examine this hypothesis using new, detailed archival data from 18th century banks. They conclude the opposite: the financial revolution led to an explosion of public debt, but it stifled private credit. This led to markedly slower growth in the English economy. Temin and Voth collected detailed data from several goldsmith banks: Child's, Gosling's, Freame and Gould, Hoare's, and Duncombe and Kent. The excellent records from Hoare's, founded by Sir Richard Hoare in 1672, offer particular insight. Numerous entrants into the banking business tried their hand at deposit-taking and lending in the early 17th century; few survived and fewer thrived. Hoare's and a small group of competitors did both. Temin and Voth chart the growth of the successful banks in the face of frequent wars and heavy-handed regulations. Their new data allows insights into the interaction between financial and economic development. Government regulations such as (a sharply lower) maximum interest rate caused severe misallocation of credit, and a misguided attempt to lighten the nation's debt burden led directly to the South Sea Bubble in 1720. Frequent wars caused banks to call in loans, resulting in a sharply slower economic growth rate. Based on detailed micro-data, the authors present conclusive evidence that wartime borrowing crowded out investment. Far from fostering economic development, England's financial revolution after 1688 did much to stifle it -- the Hanoverian "warfare state" was a key reason for slow growth during Britain's Industrial Revolution. Prometheus Shackled is a revealing new take on one of the most important periods of economic and financial development.
The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.

In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
The Big Problem of Small Change offers the first credible and analytically sound explanation of how a problem that dogged monetary authorities for hundreds of years was finally solved. Two leading economists, Thomas Sargent and François Velde, examine the evolution of Western European economies through the lens of one of the classic problems of monetary history--the recurring scarcity and depreciation of small change. Through penetrating and clearly worded analysis, they tell the story of how monetary technologies, doctrines, and practices evolved from 1300 to 1850; of how the "standard formula" was devised to address an age-old dilemma without causing inflation.

One big problem had long plagued commodity money (that is, money literally worth its weight in gold): governments were hard-pressed to provide a steady supply of small change because of its high costs of production. The ensuing shortages hampered trade and, paradoxically, resulted in inflation and depreciation of small change. After centuries of technological progress that limited counterfeiting, in the nineteenth century governments replaced the small change in use until then with fiat money (money not literally equal to the value claimed for it)--ensuring a secure flow of small change. But this was not all. By solving this problem, suggest Sargent and Velde, modern European states laid the intellectual and practical basis for the diverse forms of money that make the world go round today.


This keenly argued, richly imaginative, and attractively illustrated study presents a comprehensive history and theory of small change. The authors skillfully convey the intuition that underlies their rigorous analysis. All those intrigued by monetary history will recognize this book for the standard that it is.

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