Household Debt in Seventeenth-Century Württemberg: Evidence from Personal Inventories
The “less-developed” interior of early modern Europe, especially the rural economy, is often regarded as financially comatose. This paper investigates this view using a rich dataset of marriage and death inventories for seventeenth-century Germany. It first analyzes how borrowing varied with gender, age, marital status, occupation, lifecycle juncture, date, and asset portfolios. It then explores the characteristics of debts, examining borrowing purposes, familial links, intracommunal ties, and documentary instruments. It finds that ordinary people, even in a “less-developed” economy in rural central Europe, sought to invest profitably, smooth consumption, bridge low liquidity, and hold savings in financial form.
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