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The Promise and Peril of Credit

What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society

By Francesca Trivellato Published 2019

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Princeton University Press, 2019

Francesca Trivellato, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, examines how an antisemitic legend gave voice to widespread fears surrounding the expansion of private credit in Western capitalism in The Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society (2019).

From Princeton University Press:

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.

Read more at Princeton University Press.