Persons and projects


Subproject 1: London

Small-scale credit in the ecclesiastical administrative writing of St. Paul's in late medieval London, edited by Markus Schniggendiller

Credit transactions were an omnipresent feature of 14th and 15th century societies. The clergy is no exception in this matter. This subproject examines the involvement of the clerics of St Paul’s Cathedral into the credit market of late medieval London. Up to now this period was surprisingly disregarded by the research and this subproject aims to correct this deficiency. Especially the cleric’s role as creditors and debtors of small-scale loans and thus their connections to the urban society will be focussed in this project.

As the project's starting point served the will of the former bishop of London, Michael Northburgh (1354-1361), who devised the installation of a chest at St Paul’s Cathedral, filled with one thousand marks, from which people can borrow a certain amount of money. The initial assumption, that these credits were not only given to other clerics, but to everyone, has to be questioned. Nevertheless, this example clearly demonstrates the role of St Paul’s clergy as protagonists on the local credit market.

Based on these findings, other sources will be researched for the presence of the clerics of St Paul’s Cathedral in credit transactions. A sufficient pool of source material for such a project is given, since various financial records, such as account books, registers of rents and alms-giving, but also court rolls and recognizances of debts from late medieval London have survived.

Subproject 2: Cities of the northwest German region

Small-scale credit and market participation in the cities of Lower Rhine Wesel, Kalkar und Bocholt, edited by Monika Gussone

The second subproject focuses on the Lower Rhine region, particularly the cities of Wesel, Kalkar and Bocholt, which belonged to the group of the so-called medium-sized cities throughout the late Middle Ages. Because of their size they needed professional accountancy but, at the same time, were still able to combine revenues and expenses almost without exception in one central account book. Initially, by means of these city accounts, where traces of credit transactions, obligations and deferred payments can be found not only between the particular city and its inhabitants but also among individual citizens, the initial assumption is to be verified whether in fact small loans resulted in market participation. If this assumption is correct, recipients of small loans, as a rule, should have been able to repay their credits quickly. If, in addition, the second assumption is true that there were close networks of mutual obligations within each of the cities, the individuals involved should alternately appear not only as debtors but also as money lenders. In this context, all direct borrowing of money for immediate use, all purchases of pensions, deferred payment of wages, or of materials and products supplied as well as unpaid taxes are considered as forms of credit.
In order to obtain a comprehensive impression of the citizens‘ financial activities, their relationships amongst each other or with the city government and its ecclesiastical institutions, but also with the city’s surroundings, it is, in addition, necessary to take into account the records of monasteries and parish churches, and there again especially the accounts. Finally, contracts, normative sources as well as the minutes of the council and the jury might help to determine how frequent financial difficulties and conflicts about debts or credits occurred, whether they arose more often in specific population groups or quarters and whether and how respectively the council tried to regulate the credit market.

Subproject 3: Tyrol

Pawn broking and Lending Money in Tyrol during the 13th and 14th Centuries, edited by Stephan Nicolussi-Köhler

This project analyses credit operations in the county of Tyrol in the 13th and 14th century to explain the mechanisms of doing and engaging in pre-modern credit business. The focus is on the foundation and running of the so-called casanae or gazanae, comital pawnshops that existed from 1287/1288 until 1354 in thirteen localities in the county of Tyrol (and another five in the duchy of Carinthia). Although the existence of these institutions is a known fact, never before they have been the subject of an in-depth study about credit.
The disappearance of these obsolete institutions after roughly 70 years raises some questions of greater importance for the exploration of credit: Why were the comital pawnshops in the first place founded? Why were pawnshops exactly in these urban and rural localities founded? Who took loans there, what sums were involved, what items were pawned, how was the repayment behaviour of the borrowers and what other means of getting credit existed – in short, it is asked what people needed. To do this this project uses new material that not has been used in this context before: The Tyrolian accounting books (Raitbücher), notary registers and charters, which inform us about borrowing and lending money in Tyrol.
For too long economic historians have equated credit with banking business and merchant activities of the financial centres of Europe. The business dealings of merchants, ecclesiastical and secular rulers were of utmost interest. Needless to say this approach almost left out the entire historical population. Studying credit on a large scale in Tyrol – private loans, pawnshops, rent market – will contribute to our understanding of how the “bottom 99.9 percent” actually made a living. Credit relations go a long way in explaining social and economic shifts that are crucial for understanding the (economic) development of regions in the longue durée.