History seminars at the IHR

Economic and Social History of the Early Modern World, 1500-1800

Convenors: Julian Hoppit (UCL), Alejandra Irigoin (LSE), Anne Murphy (University of Hertfordshire), David Ormrod (University of Kent) and Nuala Zahedieh (University of Edinburgh)

Venue: Room N304, 3rd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Time: Friday, 5.15pm

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
25 September The economy of medieval English towns: property values and rents in Bristol, 1200-1500

Mark Casson (Reading)

The commercialisation of the English economy in the period 1200-1500 has been well established by Richard Britnell, Bruce Campbell, James Davis and others. Much of their evidence relates to commodity markets and to the agricultural sector. The commercialisation of property markets in late medieval towns has received less attention, Building on previous work by Richard Holt, Margaret Yates and others, this paper presents a case study of an urban property market. The focus is Bristol, at a time when it was England’s leading Atlantic port. The paper employs hedonic regression to analyse the variation of rents and property values across individual properties in the city and its suburbs. It combines data from feets of fines 1209-1364, and a series of five rentals 1293-1463. It investigates whether city-centre properties commanded higher rents than properties nearer the walls, whether rents were higher inside the city than in the suburbs, and whether they were higher for certain types of property. It also investigates whether rents varied systematically over time. The relationship between rents and property values provides a measure of the rate of interest. The results for Bristol are compared with similar results for other towns, including Gloucester, Coventry and Hull. The results suggest that general economic factors interacted with local topographic features to influence the evolution of urban property rents and property values. Evidence from all four towns suggests that English urban property markets were significantly commercialised by 1300. Later developments of the property market under the Tudors built on a well-established commercial base which was a legacy of the late medieval period.

9 October Money supply and the credit market in early modern economies: the case of 18th century Lisbon

Leonor Costa (Lisbon)

Leonor Freire Costa, Maria Manuela Rocha (Department of Social Sciences, History _ GHES), Paulo Brito (Department of Economics, UECE) University of Lisbon, School of Economics and Management.

The long-term decrease in interest rates during the early modern period is an issue in economic history. After the seminal work of North and Weingast, a large body of literature has been focused on the institutional arrangements that allowed for less friction in financial markets. In this paper we bring to the forefront macroeconomic variables. We address the private credit market and interest rates in Lisbon in the eighteenth century for discussion. This case contributes to illuminate the effects of three sorts of events that can be called upon when analyzing the partial equilibrium of the credit market: a) colonial monopolies in mining regions, and their consequences on the rise of money supply;  b) The massive destruction of capital caused by the 1755 earthquake, which represents an unpredictable external shock; c) the enactment of a 5%  legal ceiling, which in this case was regulated after the earthquake.
 The main question is whether the liquidity driven by the accumulation of a colonial rent affected the partial equilibrium functioning of the short term credit market. If the answer is yes, how significant was this variable and how did it respond to the massive destruction of capital after 1755?
We built a time series for the market interest rates based on notarial deeds, and explored available time series of Portuguese money supply. We took the number of hearths in Lisbon before and after the earthquake as a proxy for the stock of wealth. A partial equilibrium model was put forward for the determination of the market interest rates consistent with the aforementioned events. In particular, interest rates are expected to decrease with the supply of loanable funds and to incorporate the wealth and informational role resulting from variations in the stock of real estate (measured by the number of hearths) and pledged as collateral. An assessment of the severity of the (disequilibrium) credit rationing generated by the 5% ceiling imposed on interest rates should be a corollary of the model.
We concluded that the inflow of gold clearly generated a liquidity effect which by itself explained the downward trend in interest rates up until around 1780. However, the huge variations experienced by wealth after the earthquake also explain the steadiness of interest rates in a period when the inflow of money started to recede. For the whole period during which the 5 % ceiling on interest rates was in force we did not find any evidence of disequilibrium credit rationing: the notional interest rate predicted by our model was very close to the 5% legal ceiling.  
Our conclusions highlight the role played by monetary variables in the functioning of credit markets in early modern economies. The non-existence of a central bank and the lack of a monetary policy in the modern sense, provide us with an actual example of a non-sterilized money shock experiment. This is the closest we can get to a textbook example of the impact of liquidity changes on interest rates, which is harder to perceive when the money supply is controlled in accordance to monetary rules or other macroeconomic stabilization policies.

23 October Trustworthy or unpredictable? The Dutch discourse on Great Britain's public credit

Lina Weber (Amsterdam)

From the financial revolution onwards, the evolving national debt of Britain attracted foreign capital – with the highest foreign contribution being made by Dutch investors. A socially broad range of Dutchmen and women invested either through an attorney directly in London or on a lively secondary market that developed in Amsterdam. Throughout the eighteenth century, Dutch investors preferred British shares and bonds to other foreign investment possibilities. Only during the 1770s, did they start to spread their foreign investments more broadly. This financial relationship between the two countries did, of course, not go unnoticed by contemporaries but they discussed it in journals, pamphlets, poems, and cartoons. The paper will analyse this Dutch discourse that focussed on the issues of public credit and Britain as a debtor with its various economic and political aspects.


6 November The costs of a contract: how did "wages" really work in early modern London?

Judy Stephenson (LSE)

The study of wages in early modern England has been predominantly characterised to date by the collection of day rates of building workers. Drawing on sources from some of the largest building sites and firms in London in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century this paper offers new evidence of what those day rates actually meant, and new pay data. The analysis examines the means and structure of pay, and the categorisation of skill in early modern London.

20 November Contaminated empires. The transnational foundations of the British transatlantic slave trade

Alejandro García-Montón Ph.D in History and Civilization (European University Institute)

“Contaminated Empires: The Transnational Foundations of British Transatlantic Slave Trade”
The ‘Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa’ (1660-1672) is largely acknowledged as a foundational experience for British transatlantic slave trade. From a ‘domestic’ perspective, the ‘Royal Adventurers’ has been understood as another expression of the Restoration’s mercantilist policies. However, this paper suggests that we can tackle the ‘Royal Adventurers’ as a reaction to the 1662 reorganization of Spanish slavery markets. From this perspective, the ‘Royal Adventurers’ appear to be an inter-imperial instrument to access the Spanish American bullion markets by supplying slaves, rather than a venture designed to keep the profits of intra-imperial slave trade in the hands of a few.
By exploring the previous hypothesis, this paper aims at offering a narrative in which the historical transformation of imperial slavery circuits in the Atlantic world was not a self-contained and ‘nationally’ inward looking process, as frequently claimed. Instead, it was a trans-‘nationally’ entangled one in which empires contaminated each other through interaction, reaction and reciprocal adaptation of/to each other, from their centers to their peripheries.

Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
15 January The Returns to Invention during the British Industrial Revolution

Sean Bottomley (Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse)

29 January Material Changes: The Impact of Mechanisation and Fibre Prices on Working-Class Underwear, 1720-1850

Alice Dolan (Hertfordshire)

12 February Credibility or necessity? Supply and demand-based interpretations of the creation (or not) of long-term public debts in the Middle Ages

Tony Moore (Reading)

26 February Disciplining credit: the civic model of public pawnshops in early modern Italy

Mauro Carboni (Bologna)

11 March Re-assessing the Great Rebuilding 1480-1700

John Broad (CAMPOP)

18 March Trade rivalry, foreign policy and the crises of the 1620s in England and the Netherlands

David Ormrod (Kent) and Valentina Caldari (Balliol College, Oxford)

Joint session with the Low Countries History, Economic and Social History of the Early Modern World seminar
Venue: Room SH243, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House

Summer Term 2016
DateSeminar details
20 May The Role of Domains in Transferring and Building Manufacturing Systems in the Tokugawa Era (1603-1868)

Masa Tanimoto (Tokyo)

17 June Spinning and the Industrial Revolution

John Styles (Hertfordshire)