This introductory chapter provides an overview of the legend of the Jewish invention of bills of exchange. During the period of their use, bills of exchange garnered considerable attention among enthusiasts and critics alike, not only for their ability to move and generate wealth in seemingly mysterious ways, but also for their potential to trick naïve investors. As such, they epitomized the promise and the peril of early modern commercial credit. Starting in the mid-seventeenth century, a number of authors maintained that those Jews who had been expelled from the kingdom of France at various points in time between the seventh and fourteenth centuries had devised bills of exchange in order to evade the confiscation of their properties and to smuggle their wealth abroad. This book then illustrates how easily the anxieties created by Jews' potential invisibility in the marketplace could be mapped onto the increasing abstraction of the paper economy.
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