The Economic History Review

London creditors and the fifteenth‐century depression

Volume 69 Issue 4
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Pages: 1083-1107Authors: Matthew Frank Stevens
Published online: April 1, 2016DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12282

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Evidence of debts owed to Londoners, and contested before the royal Court of Common Pleas, allows an examination of the role of London creditors in the English depression of the fifteenth century and a reassessment of its causes. In this article, four main issues are examined. What is the nature of the Court of Common Pleas evidence (section I)? What were the three main forms of credit offered by Londoners–unsecured cash loans, sales of goods on credit, and written instruments called bonds (section II)? What is yielded by decadal analysis of Londoners’ extension of credit in the fifteenth century–making direct comparisons with Nightingale’s published Statute Merchant and Staple data (section III)? What defines, in modern economic terms, the claim of so-called ‘monetarist’ historians that credit was actively withdrawn during the depression, and how is this verified by the actions of London creditors (section IV)? It is concluded that the records of the Court of Common Pleas provide the detailed evidence monetarist historians have previously lacked both to prove that Londoners actively withdrew credit during the fifteenth century and to demonstrate that they employed pure equilibrium credit rationing in order to do so.