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Peasant Credit Market in Poland in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (15th and 16th centuries)

Peasant Credit Market in Poland in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (15th and 16th centuries)

By Piotr Guzowski

XIV International Economic History Congress (2006)

Introduction: Credit in medieval and early modern Poland has been of interest mainly to legal historians. They have identified different types of credit and examined the theory and practice of Polish credit market legal rules. Their research, however, has had a tendency to focus on the elite, gentry in particular, and peasants have been almost completely excluded.

Polish legal historians identify four types of late medieval credit arranged outside financial institutions such as banks: “1) a loan inter Christianos, very often made on security […], 2) an usura Judeorum, i. e. a loan given to a Christian by a Jew, which was in many respects different from the former, 3) the purchase of rent arrears, 4) the selling of real property with the right to repurchase”.

Research on credit in Poland has so far been based on land and town court rolls which registered also credit transactions made by peasants if the other party to it was a gentleman or a citizen. More information on peasant credit market and peasant economy in general can be obtained from village court rolls and this paper relies entirely on this kind of sources.

The aim of the author is to consider the significance of credit in peasant economic life in late medieval and early modern Poland and to discuss financial situation of Polish peasants and, indirectly, the level of commercialization of their economy.

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