Dartmouth Interdisciplinary Network Research Group (DINR)

Please join us on February 19, from 12:30-2:00pm, for our next seminar with John Padgett of the University of Chicago.  

Economic Credit in Renaissance Florence

John F. Padgett and Paul D. McLean

Volanakis Faculty Seminar Room (Buchanan 051, Tuck School)

Abstract: What were the social and institutional factors that led to, and reinforced, the precocious emergence of Florentine commercial capitalism, especially in the domain of international merchant-banking? The dominant stream of answers emphasized by economic historians focuses on the invention in late-medieval and Renaissance Italy of a variety of innovative business techniques – bills of exchange, double-entry bookkeeping, partnership contracts, commercial courts. If these impressive organizational inventions are interpreted as facets of a broader rise of efficient impersonal markets, then a tension emerges in Florentine, and indeed in European, historiography between economic historians and the research of social and political historians who emphasize the deeply personalistic – mainly familial and clientelistic – character of social relationships of the period. Were impressive early-capitalist business techniques really signs of a teleological breakthrough of the market from its traditional social shackles, as the master narrative of modernization would have it? Or instead were economic market relations in the market embedded in, and hence reflective of, the surrounding social and political networks of the time, as anthropologically oriented historians have argued? If evidence can be found in support of both propositions, then how are we to reconcile these seemingly contradictory interpretations?

For details of other forthcoming events, please click here.

For a copy of the slide deck from James O’Malley’s workshop on techniques for social network analysis, please click here.