MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE EUROPE in .NET

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MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE EUROPE
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In medieval times there was far more evidence of state loans, city loans and princely loans than in ancient times. Credit gradually became a political device and has remained so ever since: an essential weapon of politics and of national defense or offense. The princes, however, rarely managed to develop efficient state credit. Something like modern methods of state finance were developed only by the northern free towns and by the Italian republics; these methods were later adopted by Holland and England. The consent of the propertied public was the essential ingredient. The ultimate triumph of more democratic governments throughout much of northern Europe was probably due in part to the ability of these governments to mobilize their enormous public resources. Spain failed absolutely. The French monarchy at times seemed to succeed but quickly relapsed into arbitrary state finance. The principal credit form of the free towns and provinces was the traditional census annuity, the long-term pledge of annual income payments, often running to perpetuity, with no obligatory repayment of principal. No such instruments were in general use in ancient times, although there were one or two experiments with annuities. Out of these perpetual annuities have evolved the modern funded debts of the nations. A more or less distant maturity is now added to funded debts, but if maturity is twenty, thirty, or fifty years off, the practical difference from the perpetual annuity is slight. These annuities in northern Europe apparently had no secondary market in early centuries. However, the perpetual obligations of Venice developed an active secondary or bourse market in the thirteenth century; their form was almost identical with the northern town annuities, but they were originally issued as forced assessments and they were uniform. There was also an active bourse market for Genoese obligations in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, Dutch annuities became marketable, and some sort of market developed at times for French rentes (another term for perpetual annuities). In each case marketability seemed to coincide with lower interest rates, but this may or may not have been a result of cause and effect. The lower rates may have been due to the simple fact that all interest rates were declining throughout most of the period under review. By the end of the Renaissance, something close to modern governmental long-term bonds had thus developed. The modern short-term government bill market, however, had not yet appeared. Deposit banking existed throughout the Middle Ages, but in a form at first more resembling ancient banking than modern. Bankers were private merchants. In Italy they were subject to official rules and regulations. They carried on all of the banking activities of antiquity and these included most of the modern banking functions in rudimentary form. There were even a few official or quasi-official banks organized very early. Dates of origin and the functions of these banks were as follows:
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SUMMARY OF MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE INTEREST RATES
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A basic difference from the present was the lack of large private corporations. Toward the end of the Renaissance trading companies that had commercial monopolies along nationalistic lines were organized, and their securities soon enjoyed an active market. But industry, and hence modern capitalism, had to await the industrial revolution. Long-term private loans, therefore, were not yet in modern form. They comprised principally the census annuities issued by farmers on their land, or issued by quasi-public authorities on their revenues; they were sometimes perpetual and at other times redeemable or for one or more lives. Investment of the surplus funds of the private man of wealth in credit instruments was not yet convenient and well organized. Merchants, with their expert knowledge, capital, and connections abroad, could manage to invest well enough, but the amateur capitalist still usually hoarded metal, deposited with bankers or bought land. There is good evidence, however, that investable surpluses were accumulating rapidly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. When convenient and suitable credit forms were developed, such as the Dutch and British funded debt, they quickly attracted very large funds. THE TREND OF INTEREST RATES Table 11 supports the opinion often expressed by economic historians that interest rates declined during much of the later Middle Ages and Renaissance. The earliest short-term rates quoted were somewhat higher than the last and highest of the western Roman legal limits. They were not too different from early Greek rates and were within the range of Babylonian rates, although the credit forms were very different from ancient credit forms. The later Renaissance rates were well within the range of modern rates and the lowest were far below modern rates in periods of credit stringency. As most of Western Europe throughout most of this period was in effect one money market dominated by Italians, very little weight should be put on variations of bill rates from place to place. The Italians dominated the Netherlands bill market, and, therefore, differences in quotations between Italy and the Netherlands may be accidents of reporting.
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