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Debt Sustainability in Historical Perspective: The Role of Fiscal Repression

  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Hans-Joachim Voth

This article examines the debt history of two contenders for European hegemony: 16th-century Spain and 18th-century Britain. We analyze their fiscal behavior using measures of overborrowing and fiscal policy functions. Our results suggest that stringency was not key for Britain's success in avoiding default. Instead, fiscal repression allowed the United Kingdom to borrow at below-market rates, thereby outspending its continental rivals. (JEL: E4, F41, N23) (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
Pages: 657-667

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:2-3:p:657-667
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  1. Bordo, Michael D. & White, Eugene N., 1991. "A Tale of Two Currencies: British and French Finance During the Napoleonic Wars," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 303-316, June.
  2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Joachim Voth & Peter Temin, 2005. "Interest rate restrictions in a natural experiment: loan allocation and the change in the usury laws in 1714," Economics Working Papers 858, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Temin, Peter & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2004. "Credit Rationing and Crowding-Out During the Industrial Revolution: Evidence from Hoare's Bank, 1702-1862," CEPR Discussion Papers 4453, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2010. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Castile's Fiscal Position, 1566–1596," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(04), pages 813-842, December.
  6. Neal,Larry, 1994. "The Rise of Financial Capitalism," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521457385.
  7. Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1984. "Why Was British Growth So Slow During the Industrial Revolution?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(03), pages 687-712, September.
  8. Sussman, Nathan & Yafeh, Yishay, 2006. "Institutional Reforms, Financial Development and Sovereign Debt: Britain 1690 1790," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 906-935, December.
  9. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2007. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Spain's Fiscal Position, 1560-1598," CEPR Discussion Papers 6611, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Robert J. Barro, 1986. "Government Spending, Interest Rates, Prices, and Budget Deficits in the United Kingdom, 1701-1918," NBER Working Papers 2005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Oya Celasun & Xavier Debrun & Jonathan D. Ostry, 2006. "Primary Surplus Behavior and Risks to Fiscal Sustainability in Emerging Market Countries: A "Fan-Chart" Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 53(3), pages 3.
  12. Michael D. Bordo & Eugene N. White, 1990. "British and French Finance During the Napoleonic Wars," NBER Working Papers 3517, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior Of U.S. Public Debt And Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963, August.
  14. Wyplosz, Charles, 1999. "Financial Restraints and Liberalization in Postwar Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 2253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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