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Lending to the borrower from hell: Debt and default in the age of Philip II, 1556-1598

  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Joachim Voth

What sustained borrowing without third-party enforcement, in the early days of sovereign lending? Philip II of Spain accumulated towering debts while stopping all payments to his lenders four times. How could the sovereign borrow much and default often? We argue that bankers’ ability to cut off Philip II’s access to smoothing services was key. A form of syndicated lending created cohesion among his Genoese bankers. As a result, lending moratoria were sustained through a ‘cheat the cheater’ mechanism (Kletzer and Wright, 2000). Our paper thus lends empirical support to a recent literature emphasizing the role of bankers’ incentives for continued sovereign borrowing.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1164.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
Date of revision: Nov 2009
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1164
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2010. "Serial Defaults, Serial Profits: Returns to Sovereign Lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600," Economics working papers mauricio_drelichman-2010-, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 04 Jul 2011.
  2. Roland Bénabou, 2009. "Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets," NBER Working Papers 14764, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Carlos Álvarez, 2003. "The Role Of Institutions To Solve Sovereing Debt Problems: The Spanish Monarchy´S Credit (1516-1665)," Working Papers in Economic History wh030804, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales.
  4. Marc Flandreau & Clemens Jobst, 2005. "The Ties that Divide: A Network Analysis of the International Monetary System, 1890-1910," Sciences Po publications n°5129, Sciences Po.
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  6. Lvarez-Nogal, Carlos & Prados De La Escosura, Leandro, 2007. "The decline of Spain (1500 1850): conjectural estimates," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(03), pages 319-366, December.
  7. Flandreau, Marc & Flores, Juan H., 2009. "Bonds and Brands: Foundations of Sovereign Debt Markets, 1820–1830," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 646-684, September.
  8. Natalia Kovrijnykh & Balázs Szentes, 2007. "Equilibrium Default Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 403-446.
  9. Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2005. "Supersanctions and Sovereign Debt Repayment," NBER Working Papers 11472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Grossman, Herschel I & Van Huyck, John B, 1988. "Sovereign Debt as a Contingent Claim: Excusable Default, Repudiation, and Reputation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1088-97, December.
  11. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth S., 1989. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," Scholarly Articles 12491028, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Andrew K. Rose, 2002. "One Reason Countries Pay their Debts: Renegotiation and International Trade," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 18, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
  13. Atkeson, Andrew, 1991. "International Lending with Moral Hazard and Risk of Repudiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 1069-89, July.
  14. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  15. Rui Pedro Esteves, 2007. "Quis custodiet quem? Sovereign Debt and Bondholders` Protection Before 1914," Economics Series Working Papers 323, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  16. Jeremy Bulow & Kenneth Rogoff, 1998. "Sovereign Debt: Is to Forgive to Forget," Levine's Working Paper Archive 209, David K. Levine.
  17. Kenneth M. Kletzer & Brian D. Wright, 2000. "Sovereign Debt as Intertemporal Barter," International Finance 0003004, EconWPA.
  18. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
  19. Fernandez, Raquel & Rosenthal, Robert W, 1990. "Strategic Models of Sovereign-Debt Renegotiations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 331-49, July.
  20. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2007. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Castile's Fiscal Position, 1566-1596," Economics working papers drelichman-07-11-06-09-33, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 08 Apr 2010.
  21. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309, April.
  22. Harold L. Cole & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1994. "The role of institutions in reputation models of sovereign debt," Staff Report 179, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  23. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  24. Flandreau, Marc & Jobst, Clemens, 2005. "The Ties that Divide. A Network Analysis of the International Monetary System," CEPR Discussion Papers 5129, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  25. 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.
  26. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2005. "The curse of Moctezuma: American silver and the Dutch disease," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 349-380, July.
  27. Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc D., 2010. "Supersanctions and sovereign debt repayment," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 19-36, February.
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