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Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600

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  • Drelichman, Mauricio
  • Voth, Hans-Joachim

Abstract

Philip II of Spain accumulated debts equivalent to 60% of GDP. He also defaulted four times on his short-term loans, thus becoming the first serial defaulter in history. Contrary to a common view in the literature, we show that lending to the king was profitable even under worst-case scenario assumptions. Lenders maintained long-term relationships with the crown. Losses sustained during defaults were more than compensated by profits in normal times. Defaults were not catastrophic events. In effect, short-term lending acted as an insurance mechanism, allowing the king to reduce his payments in harsh times in exchange for paying a premium in tranquil periods.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 48 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-19

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:1-19

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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Keywords: Sovereign debt Serial default Rate of return Profitability Spain;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Luis Angeles, 2011. "Institutions, property rights, and economic development in historical perspective," Working Papers 2011_03, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  2. Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2007. "Lending to the borrower from hell: Debt and default in the age of Philip II, 1556-1598," Economics Working Papers 1164, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Nov 2009.
  3. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Sovereign debt defaults: insights from history," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-714, WINTER.
  4. Irigoin, A & Grafe, R, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North & Weingast are only right on the right half," MPRA Paper 39722, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Xavier De Scheemaekere & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2012. "Addressing Economic Crises: The Reference-Class Problem," Working Papers CEB 12-024, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  6. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2014. "Tax farming and the origins of state capacity in England and France," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 1-20.
  7. David Chilosi, 2013. "Risky institutions: political regimes and the cost of public borrowing in early modern Italy," Economic History Working Papers 50815, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  8. Noel D., Johnson & Mark, Koyama, 2012. "Standardizing the fiscal state: cabal tax farming as an Intermediate Institution in early-modern England and France," MPRA Paper 40403, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "Contingent Sovereign Debt Contracts: The Historical Perspective," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(3), pages 28-32, October.
  10. Maria Alejandra Irigoin & Regina Grafe, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North and Weingast are only right on the right half," Economic History Working Papers 44492, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

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