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States of CreditSize, Power, and the Development of European Polities$
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David Stasavage

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691140575

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691140575.001.0001

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The Evolution and Importance of Public Credit

The Evolution and Importance of Public Credit

(p.25) Chapter Two The Evolution and Importance of Public Credit
States of Credit

David Stasavage

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines why access to credit was important for European states and provides extensive new evidence on the evolution of public credit across five centuries, from 1250 to 1750. The ability to borrow was critical in medieval and early modern Europe because it allowed states to participate in wars, either defensive or offensive. In order to better understand this fact, the chapter analyzes the movement that took place from compulsory to paid service for soldiers, along with opportunities to finance wars through current taxation. It also explains when states first borrowed long-term and measures the cost of borrowing, focusing on interest rates based on nominal rates at issue when these are available, and based on the fiscal proxy when they are not. The chapter highlights the difference between city-states and territorial states, with the former enjoying an apparent financial advantage that allowed them to begin borrowing earlier and to obtain access to lower-cost finance.

Keywords:   public credit, Europe, war, soldiers, taxation, borrowing, interest rates, nominal rates, city-states, territorial states

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