Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Usury, Interest and the Reformation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Usury, Interest and the Reformation

Article excerpt

Usury, Interest and the Reformation. By Eric Kerridge. [St Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Co. 2002. Pp. xiv, 190. $79.95.)

This slim volume, -written with a measure of scholarly indignation, aims to set the record straight about the history of usury during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many modern scholars have so far misinterpreted the teachings of the Protestant reformers as to make them appear to have broken with the medieval tradition that forbade usurious loans of money. The truth is quite otherwise. The reformers condemned usury. The medieval law had long drawn a distinction between usury and legitimate interest. For example, more than the amount of a loan could lawfully be paid where the borrower and lender shared the risk of a venture financed by the loan. Similarly, where a lender was harmed in his own affairs by a delay in repayment, he could lawfully be compensated by being paid for the delay. However, this was not usury. These were examples of interest. Protestant writers drew the same distinction. What was condemned was the increase in the amount to be repaid when no more than a simple loan was at issue. This practice was considered as "sterile" in contemporary thought, and almost all Protestant theologians were as strong in condemning it as were contemporary (or medieval) Catholic thinkers. However much they disagreed about theological issues, both camps recognized the difference between usury and interest. There may have been some confusion or slight changes in terminology among the Protestants, but this should not have misled scholars about the substance. …

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