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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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  • Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2011. "Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-19, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:1-19
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Adrian R. Bell & Chris Brooks & Tony K. Moore, 2014. "The credit relationship between Henry III and merchants of Douai and Ypres, 1247–70," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(1), pages 123-145, February.
    3. Chilosi, David, 2014. "Risky Institutions: Political Regimes and the Cost of Public Borrowing in Early Modern Italy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(03), pages 887-915, September.
    4. Xavier De Scheemaekere & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2014. "Issues in Identifying Economic Crises: Insights from History," Working Papers CEB 14-014, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. Luis Angeles, 2011. "Institutions, Property Rights, and Economic Development in Historical Perspective," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 157-177, May.
    6. Álvarez Nogal, Carlos & Chamley, Christophe, 2015. "Equity short-term finance under Philip II, with an option to long-term funded debt," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp15-02, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    7. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:ces:ifodic:v:11:y:2013:i:3:p:19099075 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2016. "Duplication without constraints: Álvarez-Nogal and Chamley's analysis of debt policy under Philip II," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 999-1006, August.
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    12. Christiaan Bochove, 2014. "External debt and commitment mechanisms: Danish borrowing in Holland, 1763–1825," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 652-677, August.
    13. 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.
    14. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans‐Joachim Voth, 2011. "Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1205-1227, December.
    15. 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.
    16. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "Contingent Sovereign Debt Contracts: The Historical Perspective," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(3), pages 28-32, October.
    17. Irigoin, A, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North & Weingast are only right on the right half," MPRA Paper 39722, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sovereign debt Serial default Rate of return Profitability Spain;

    JEL classification:

    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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