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Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600

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  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Joachim Voth

Abstract

Philip II of Spain accumulated debts equivalent to 60% of GDP. He also defaulted four times on his short-term loans, thus becoming the first serial defaulter in history. Contrary to a common view in the literature, we show that lending to the king was profitable even under worst-case scenario assumptions. Lenders maintained long-term relationships with the crown. Losses sustained during defaults were more than compensated by profits in normal times. Defaults were not catastrophic events. In effect, short-term lending acted as an insurance mechanism, allowing the king to reduce his payments in harsh times in exchange for paying a premium in tranquil periods. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2011. "Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600," Economics Working Papers 1262, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1262
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    Cited by:

    1. Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2007. "Lending to the borrower from hell: Debt and default in the age of Philip II, 1556-1598," Economics Working Papers 1164, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Nov 2009.
    2. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Sovereign debt defaults: insights from history," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-714, WINTER.
    3. Irigoin, A, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North & Weingast are only right on the right half," MPRA Paper 39722, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Josefin Meyer & Carmen M Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2022. "Sovereign Bonds Since Waterloo," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 137(3), pages 1615-1680.
    5. Luis Angeles, 2011. "Institutions, Property Rights, and Economic Development in Historical Perspective," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 157-177, May.
    6. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2016. "Duplication without constraints: Álvarez-Nogal and Chamley's analysis of debt policy under Philip II," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 999-1006, August.
    7. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans‐Joachim Voth, 2011. "Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1205-1227, December.
    8. Carlos Álvarez‐Nogal & Christophe Chamley, 2018. "Refinancing short‐term debt with a fixed monthly interest rate into funded juros under Philip II: an asiento with the Maluenda brothers," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1100-1117, November.
    9. Xavier De Scheemaekere & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2014. "Issues in Identifying Economic Crises: Insights from History," Working Papers CEB 14-014, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    10. Christiaan Bochove, 2014. "External debt and commitment mechanisms: Danish borrowing in Holland, 1763–1825," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 652-677, August.
    11. Rota, Mauro, 2016. "Military spending, fiscal capacity and the democracy puzzle," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 41-51.
    12. Adrian R. Bell & Chris Brooks & Tony K. Moore, 2014. "The credit relationship between Henry III and merchants of Douai and Ypres, 1247–70," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(1), pages 123-145, February.
    13. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    14. Drelichman, Mauricio & Hans-Joachim, Voth, 2015. "Returns to Investing in Sovereign Debt: a Response to Alvarez Nogal and Chamley," Economics working papers mauricio_drelichman-2015-, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 02 Sep 2015.
    15. Noel D., Johnson & Mark, Koyama, 2012. "Standardizing the fiscal state: cabal tax farming as an Intermediate Institution in early-modern England and France," MPRA Paper 40403, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Carlos álvarez-Nogal & Christophe Chamley, 2015. "Equity short-term finance under Philip II, with an option to long-term funded debt," Working Papers 0079, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    17. Irigoin, 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.
    18. Chilosi, David, 2014. "Risky Institutions: Political Regimes and the Cost of Public Borrowing in Early Modern Italy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 887-915, September.
    19. repec:ces:ifodic:v:11:y:2013:i:3:p:19099075 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Xavier De Scheemaekere & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2012. "Addressing Economic Crises: The Reference-Class Problem," Working Papers CEB 12-024, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    21. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2014. "Tax farming and the origins of state capacity in England and France," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 1-20.
    22. Pablo Martín-Aceña & Pilar Nogues-Marco, 2012. "Crisis bancarias en la historia de España. Del Antiguo Régimen a los orígenes del capitalismo moderno," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1201, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    23. Freire Costa, Leonor & Münch Miranda, Susana & Nogues-Marco, Pilar, 2021. "Early modern financial development in the Iberian peninsula," Working Papers unige:147492, University of Geneva, Paul Bairoch Institute of Economic History.
    24. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "Contingent Sovereign Debt Contracts: The Historical Perspective," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(3), pages 28-32, October.

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    Keywords

    Sovereign debt; Serial default; Rate of return; Profitability; Spain;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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