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Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II, 1556-1598

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  • Voth, Hans-Joachim
  • Drelichman, Mauricio

Abstract

Philip II of Spain accumulated debts equivalent to 60% of GDP. He also failed to honor them four times. We ask what allowed the sovereign to borrow much while defaulting often. Earlier work emphasized either banker irrationality or the importance of sanctions. Using new archival data, we show that neither interpretation is supported by the evidence. What sustained lending was the ability of bankers to cut off Philip II?s access to smoothing services. We analyze the incentive structure that supported the cohesion of this bankers' coalition. Lending moratoria were sustained through a "cheat the cheater" mechanism (Kletzer and Wright, 2000).

Suggested Citation

  • Voth, Hans-Joachim & Drelichman, Mauricio, 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7276
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    2. Garcia, Daniel, 2016. "A Pound of Flesh for the King," MPRA Paper 73266, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Yves Balasko & Enrique Kawamura, 2010. "Pareto-Improving Defaul," Working Papers 102, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised May 2010.
    4. Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, 2013. "Sovereign Risk," Chapters, in: Andreas Dombret & Otto Lucius (ed.), Stability of the Financial System, chapter 10, Edward Elgar Publishing.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sovereign debt; Serial default; Early modern state finances; Philip ii; State capacity; Incentive compatability;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F21 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Investment; Long-Term Capital Movements
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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