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Funding Empire: Risk, Diversification, and the Underwriting of Early Modern Sovereign Loans

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  • Drelichman, Mauricio
  • Voth, Hans-Joachim

Abstract

Lending to early modern monarchs could be very profitable, yet highly risky. International financiers unlocked the excess returns in sovereign debt markets by parceling out the risk and transferring it to downstream investors in exchange for financial intermediation fees. We link two sovereign loans to Philip II of Spain to a downstream Genoese partnership. After examining the performance of the loans through the 1596 bankruptcy and its ensuing settlement, we conclude that the risk diversification scheme used by international bankers worked. Shares in sovereign loans were held within highly diversified portfolios, enhancing their returns in normal times and not posing excessive risks when caught in a default.

Suggested Citation

  • Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2011. "Funding Empire: Risk, Diversification, and the Underwriting of Early Modern Sovereign Loans," Economics working papers mauricio_drelichman-2011-, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 06 Jul 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:ubc:bricol:mauricio_drelichman-2011-15
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    File URL: http://mauricio.econ.ubc.ca/pdfs/Funding_Empire.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    2. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
    3. Pezzolo, Luciano & Tattara, Giuseppe, 2008. "“Una fiera senza luogo”: Was Bisenzone an International Capital Market in Sixteenth-Century Italy?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(04), pages 1098-1122, December.
    4. 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.
    5. James Conklin, 1998. "The Theory of Sovereign Debt and Spain under Philip II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 483-513, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Irigoin, A, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North & Weingast are only right on the right half," MPRA Paper 39722, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Irigoin, Maria Alejandra & Grafe, Regina, 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.

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    Keywords

    sovereing debt; syndication; diversification; Spain; Genoa;

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