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All in Good Conscience? Credit Relations and Power in Fifteenth Century England


All in Good Conscience? Credit Relations and Power in Fifteenth Century England

Brouillette, Samuel (2023) All in Good Conscience? Credit Relations and Power in Fifteenth Century England. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis examines the social and cultural dimensions of credit provision in fifteenth century England. During this period, individuals had to rely on members of their own social networks to access credit since no centralized financial institutions were available to borrow money from. Through an examination of various types of judicial records, including consistory court depositions, chancery bills of complaint, and court of common pleas case summaries, this thesis charts the availability of credit throughout the century and examines the different methods contemporaries used to help circulate value. Evidence form these sources reveals that the availability of credit waxed and waned throughout the century, being more easily accessible during its first few decades before becoming scarcer during the 1450s. Towards the end of the century, credit levels began a slow recovery. The extant records further demonstrate that throughout this period debts were not only reimbursed in coin. They could also be repaid in kind, through pledges of goods, or the enfeoffment of land. Moreover, this research reveals that bonds, although not fully negotiable, were routinely assigned to third parties, and thus helped to alleviate some of the financial difficulties caused by coin scarcity throughout the century.
This thesis also demonstrates how certain social groups dominated credit exchanges. Built on cultural norms such as trust and reputation, high-value credit transactions were dominated by merchants, men, and Londoners. This situation had important social and financial implications because loans, despite usury prohibitions, were interest-bearing and were thus treated by contemporaries as a type of investment. As a result, they became an important mechanism through which capital could be accumulated and financial resources centralized. These flows of capital thus contributed to the emergence of a national economy dominated by London merchants. Finally, credit relations were also shaped by and constitutive of power relations. Although power could be wielded by both debtors and creditors, English law afforded creditors a structural advantage in these exchanges since insolvent debtors could be imprisoned. This gave lenders the opportunity to make use of social capital to extract further concessions from borrowers.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Brouillette, Samuel
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Date:6 March 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):McSheffrey, Shannon
ID Code:992002
Deposited On:21 Jun 2023 14:12
Last Modified:21 Jun 2023 14:12
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