The medieval invention of emancipating credit
XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki 2006
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The history of solidaristic credit, which also belongs to today’s system of microcredit, has ancient origins dating back to the 15th century. For example, the pawnshop, an institute that still functions today in many cities, originated at the end of the 15th century. The pawnshops of the
Middle Ages operated in a similar way to the shops of today. Tailoring the type of credit to each client’s individual needs, the medieval pawnshops helped people obtain credit they would normally have been denied at a regular bank. Paraphrasing the title of Maria Novak’s book, the official
banks made loans only to the rich. Therefore, the pawnshops were directed, according to the original statutes, to people who were neither very rich nor absolutely poor.
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