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The Promise and Peril of CreditWhat a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society$
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Francesca Trivellato

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691178592

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691178592.001.0001

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Bordeaux, the Specter of Crypto-Judaism, and the Changing Status of Commerce

Bordeaux, the Specter of Crypto-Judaism, and the Changing Status of Commerce

(p.66) 4 Bordeaux, the Specter of Crypto-Judaism, and the Changing Status of Commerce
The Promise and Peril of Credit

Francesca Trivellato

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at the circumstances in which Étienne Cleirac composed his writings. Whether Cleirac coined or merely repeated it, the legend of the Jewish invention of marine insurance and bills of exchange was his attempt at making sense of the changes in the legal, political, and social orders that the expansion of overseas commerce set in motion. Cleirac's life unfolded in a city where Jews were indistinguishable from local and foreign Christian merchants involved in long-distance trade, many of whom no longer belonged to a guild. It would not have surprised anyone in seventeenth-century France that New Christians, Catholics, and Protestants signed each other's bills of exchange and underwrote each other's marine insurance policies. Until 1723, however, crypto-Judaism was an institutionalized reality in Bordeaux. As such, the specter of crypto-Judaism infuses Cleirac's narrative of the origins of marine insurance and bills of exchange.

Keywords:   Étienne Cleirac, marine insurance policies, bills of exchange, commerce, overseas commerce, Christian merchants, Jews, New Christians, crypto-Judaism, Bordeaux

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