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Credit and Village Society in Fourteenth-Century England$
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Chris Briggs

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264416

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264416.001.0001

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Credit and social relations

Credit and social relations

(p.149) 5 Credit and social relations
Credit and Village Society in Fourteenth-Century England

Chris Briggs

British Academy

In the previous chapters, the dominant view of the creditor-debtor relationship was exploitative – where lenders capitalize on the dependence of the poor borrowers. In this view, the creditors profited while the debtors become poorer as a consequence of their borrowing. This chapter discusses the nature and consequences of the relationships between creditors and debtors, both for the individuals involved and the village society as a whole. It seeks to rebut the above-mentioned observations. In this chapter, it is assumed that the acquisitive behaviour of the lenders has limits and that the exploitative nature of the credit system has boundaries. Although the idea of debt as a malign force has a long tradition within the history of European agrarian societies, this chapter presents a rather different picture of the credit-debtor relationship during the medieval period. Undeniably, the creditors generally profited from the credit system. However, most credit relationships did not result in negative consequences for the borrower. In the villages studied in this chapter, most people who were involved in credit did not experience serious long-term economic problems or exploitation from the creditors. This scenario suggests that many of the borrowers during the period were relatively wealthy with almost the same economic characteristics as those of the lenders. It also established that debtors generally are lessors wherein they lease their parts of land to pay for their debts instead of formally pledging their lands as collateral.

Keywords:   relationships, acquisitive behaviour, exploitation, credit relationships, economic problems, lessors, collateral, land, debts

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