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

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  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Joachim Voth

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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. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1262.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1262

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

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Luis Angeles, 2011. "Institutions, Property Rights, and Economic Development in Historical Perspective," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 157-177, 05.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2009. "Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II, 1556-1598," CEPR Discussion Papers 7276, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Sovereign debt defaults: insights from history," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-714, WINTER.
  10. 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.

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