Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

ELEVEN
Credit in the Marketplace

Lend to one another without expecting anything in return." When, in his Gospel ( Luke 6:35), St. Luke recorded the very general remark made by Christ—"Love ye your enemies, and do good"—he never imagined that he might be laying down a scriptural, and therefore indisputable, basis for one of the most serious obstacles ever imposed on economic development. In reality, neither the theologians who wrote about the evils of interest nor members of the Church councils who more than once condemned it—particularly firmly in 1215 in one of the canons of the fourth Lateran Council—were taken in by a text clearly not referring to the remuneration of investment. The Old Testament has even less to say about economics, reminding us only that one should not behave with a compatriot (Exod. 22:25) or a relative (Lev. 25:36-37) as would a usurer with a client. Indeed, the Scriptures were explicit: "Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury" (Deut. 23:20). The Psalms praise God's generosity and the prophet Ezekiel condemns usurers, but none of this seemed to imply that economic relations should be paralyzed. But the principle of any scholastic debate was to take as its premise the "authorities," and there was no authority to rival such an apparently explicit line from the Gospels.


Theory and Practice

The forbidding of usury—as lending at interest was called, regardless of the rate—was thus based on firm authority. As economic life increasingly demanded a greater precision in decisions made about commercial procedures, attitudes toward usury became more clearly defined, derived from

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Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gold & Spices - The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages *
  • Contents *
  • Maps *
  • Introduction 1
  • One Horizons 8
  • Two Opening the Way 31
  • Three Learning About the World 53
  • Four Privileges 77
  • Five Competition 95
  • Six Foreigners 109
  • Seven Currency 125
  • Eight Payment 142
  • Nine Capital 151
  • Ten Business 175
  • Eleven Credit in the Marketplace 193
  • Twelve Toward Modern Banking 215
  • Thirteen the Risks of Business 237
  • Fourteen Accounting 258
  • Fifteen the Power of Business 280
  • Sixteen the Businessman and the Prince 297
  • Seventeen Social Aspirations 312
  • Eighteen Fortune and Conscience 332
  • Nineteen the Merchant and the Arts 349
  • Conclusion 363
  • Bibliography 365
  • Index 376
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