"Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society"
Panel discussion on Francesca Trivellato's new book
Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society
Francesca Trivellato is Professor of Early Modern History at Institute for Advanced Study. She is a leading historian of early modern Italy and continental Europe, Francesca Trivellato has made significant and groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the organization and culture of the marketplace in the pre-industrial world. Trivellato's original and imaginative research has revitalized the study of early economic history, and her influential work on cross-cultural trade intersects the fields of European, Jewish, Mediterranean, and global history, religion, and capitalism.
By the close of the Middle Ages, new and sophisticated credit instruments made it easier for European merchants to move funds across the globe. Bills of exchange were by far the most arcane. Intangible and written in a cryptic language, they fueled world trade but also lured naive investors into risky businesses. In The Promise and Peril of Credit, Francesca Trivellato recounts how the invention of these abstruse credit contracts was falsely attributed to Jews, and how this story gave voice to deep-seated fears about the unseen perils of the new paper economy. Weaving together economic, legal, social, cultural, and intellectual history, Trivellato describes how Christian writers drew on the story to define and redefine what constituted the proper boundaries of credit in a modern world increasingly dominated by finance.