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Complementarity, Competition and Institutional Development: The Irish Loan Funds through Three Centuries

Author

Listed:
  • Aidan Hollis

    (University of Calgary)

  • Arthur Sweetman

    (University of Victoria)

Abstract

Ireland's loan funds were a long lived, self-sustaining, large-scale microcredit organization that made millions of loans, without collateral, to the poor. We examine the life-cycle of this institution and show how the loan funds responded to their economic environment in ways that benefitted Ireland but diminished the demand for the funds' services. During their first 100 years, a period of growth ending in the 1840s, they adapted constantly to reflect their changing environment, and were successful in obtaining improvements to their legal structure because they were complementary to the banking system and were seen as an effective method of relieving poverty. In contrast, in their second hundred years, they became ossified, perhaps because the commercial banks had become direct competitors. We see in their progress through 200 years an example of Douglass North's contention that institutions change incrementally and, when they are successful, often change the framework within which they operate.

Suggested Citation

  • Aidan Hollis & Arthur Sweetman, 1997. "Complementarity, Competition and Institutional Development: The Irish Loan Funds through Three Centuries," Economic History 9704003, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpeh:9704003
    Note: 32 pages
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. North, Douglass C., 1984. "Government and the Cost of Exchange in History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(02), pages 255-264, June.
    2. Hollis, Aidan & Sweetman, Arthur, 1998. "Microcredit in Prefamine Ireland," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 347-380, October.
    3. Yifu Lin, Justin & Nugent, Jeffrey B., 1995. "Institutions and economic development," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2301-2370 Elsevier.
    4. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Timothy Besley & Timothy W. Guinnane, 1994. "Thy Neighbor's Keeper: The Design of a Credit Cooperative with Theory and a Test," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 491-515.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hollis, Aidan & Sweetman, Arthur, 1998. "Microcredit in Prefamine Ireland," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 347-380, October.
    2. Hollis, Aidan & Sweetman, Arthur, 1998. "Microcredit: What can we learn from the past?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(10), pages 1875-1891, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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