The Journal of European Economic History - 2015 issue 1


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French Monetary Policy (1981-1985): A Constrained Policy, between Volcker Shock, the EMS and Macroeconomic Imbalances
The election of François Mitterrand to the French Presidency in 1981 drastically changed French economic policy. The government launched a Keynesian-inspired stimulus plan in order to restore growth and fight unemployment, whereas the Bank of France was obliged to maintain high interest rates. In 1983, the government had to change its policy: this was the turning point toward austerity. Whereas the secondary literature focuses on the impact of external constraints on fiscal policy and underestimates the impact on monetary policy, this paper aims at investigating the factors that prevented a French Keynesian policy mix by emphasizing the elements that hindered the support of the Bank of France to the stimulus plan, and those which thereafter gave new margins of manoeuvre to French monetary policy. The consideration of new primary sources provides new insight into the decision-making processes of the central banks, and revises the standard analysis of this period.
Social Configurations of Municipal Debt (State of Milan, XVII-XVIIIth Centuries)
This article aims to study why public local debt was created and how it was later used by social actors in Lombardy of Old Regime. As to the first point, this article gives a general survey on issue of loans by local communities especially in the years 1620-1660, by focusing especially on some promising case-studies, like the enquiry on Novara’s province indebtedness carried out in 1662 (more than 60 rural communities’ involved). What emerges is the predominance of military factors, and in particular the impact played by Egualanza, a very complicated system to handle quarterings of troops from a financial standpoint. Overall, the State of Milan was unable to find an effective response to the problem of local communities’ solvency, as in particular it did not give birth to any institution with special tasks to control local finances (unlike the vast majority of other Italian states). So, the state intervention concerned almost only the interest rates on municipal loans, which were lowered to 5% and 2.5% through two edicts issued by the Governor in 1636 and 1668. As to the second point, we analysed strategies that elites but also ordinary people increasingly resorted to in order to handle a growing amount of loans issued by local communities. As a main consequence of this behaviour, we could indicate the creation of a large number of bodies equipped with legal personality, which were incorporated within charitable and religious institutions. In this way, private inheritances were transformed into public bodies, a kind of “politicization” of the family. In return, institutions had to fulfil a series of duties imposed by benefactors, which usually consisted of celebrating masses, funding dowries, and in general giving birth to different kinds of charity. However, by often using specific instruments like chaplaincies or ecclesiastical benefices put under their patronage, the families of benefactors were able to preserve some form of control over the assets bequeathed. Some institutions were even purposely created by local elites exploiting public local debt, as the case study of Como (which we have studied in depth) clearly shows. This strategy was meant at first to enforce the credit instruments, especially in time of economic crisis. Institutions, and in particular pia loca, could actually achieve better results than families or individuals in collecting interest on loans, and in general in enhancing economic resources.
Money Supply and Foreign-Trade Taxes in the Soviet Union: An International Comparison Using New Soviet Data
This study examines quantitatively the relationship between special foreign-trade earnings (SFEs), which effectively represent import and export taxes, and money supply in the Soviet Union. The Soviet SFEs, as well as foreign trade taxes in market economies, can be decomposed into change in money supply and redistribution of domestic funds. A change in money supply alters the net amount of available funds, whereas redistribution of funds does not. The decomposition demonstrated that redistribution accounted for about 90% of SFEs, which generated 7% to 15% of state budget revenue in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, less than one-tenth of SFEs corresponded to net changes in domestic funds. Thus, the SFEs mechanism is not an instrument of fiscal revenue, but a by-product of comprehensive price control. The size of SFEs indicated the magnitude of price distortion, rather than the financial benefits from foreign trade. We need more data on foreign economic activities, in particular Soviet balance of payments data, to further investigate the relation between the Soviet domestic financial economy and foreign economic activities. Hopefully, the data will be discovered in Soviet archives.
The Credit Market and Notaries in Verona in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century
This article analyzes the private capital market in Verona in the second half of the seventeenth century, drawing upon notaries’ loan contracts. In a period in which formal credit institutions such as joint stock banks still did not exist the role of notaries proved crucial in non-istitutionalized credit networks. While a share of the contracts were distributed among citizens belonging to the same social class, most of the loans were drawn up between individuals coming from heterogeneous groups. The capital, which was mainly provided by the urban elite, including nobles, patricians and a dynamic and emerging bourgeoisie, aimed to finance a vast range of needs, from everyday expenses, to extraordinary ones, from the purchase of a plot of land, or a house, to the provision of a dowry. Yet, part of these financial resources aimed to support activities which gave new impetus to the Veronese economy that in the seventeenth century was gradually recovering from a period of stagnation. In effect, some capital was invested in agrarian activities, such as, for instance, the creation of new and profitable paddy fields, as well as in urban activities, like the starting up of new businesses and shops. All in all, the notaries, widely spread in the city and the countryside, helped the Veronese credit market function efficiently because of their role as depositories of publica fides and of financial intermediaries, paving the way to a future economic modernization.
The State and the Sea. Economic Policy for the Shipbuilding and the Marine-Equipment Industry in Italy Between the Two World Wars
This essay focuses on the economic policy pursued by liberal governments and by the Fascist government to support maritime industry, an economically and militarily strategic sector for the Italian economy. Well-known is the reorganization of this sector between 1933 and 1937 by the IRI-Istituto per la ricostruzione industriale, which took over the ownership of major Italian shipbuilding and shipping companies. The maritime industry was, in fact, an important factor in the making of the Italian model of the Entrepreneurial state. Yet, the transition of a major portion of this sector to the hand of the state is also the arrival point of a road taken from the 1880s on, and especially in the years following World War I. In fact, in the decade preceding the great crisis of 1929, both the Italian Government and Parliament not only kept providing economic support through the “usual” construction premiums to shipbuilding companies, and the “usual” maritime conventions to shipping, but also implemented new tools of public support. Among these tools, a particularly important role was played by the Istituto per il credito navale (1928-1940), created and chaired by Alberto Beneduce.
Reviews of books
S. Beckert - Empire of Cotton. A Global History
Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe - Pierre Werner: témoignages d’une vocation européenne
A. De Rose, S. Strozza (eds.) - Fifth Population Report. Italy in the Economic Crisis
F. Bethencourt - Racisms: from the Crusades to the Twentieth Century
Books received

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