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Faculty of Economics

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Ogilvie, S., Küpker, M. and Maegraith, J.

Household debt in early modern Germany: evidence from personal inventories

Journal of Economic History

Vol. 72(1) pp. 134-167 (2012)

Abstract: The “less-developed” interior of early modern Europe, especially the rural economy, is often regarded as financially comatose. This article investigates this view using a rich data set of marriage and death inventories for seventeenth-century Germany. It first analyzes the characteristics of debts, examining borrowing purposes, familial links, communal ties, and documentary instruments. It then explores how borrowing varied with gender, age, marital status, occupation, date, and asset portfolio. It finds that ordinary people, even in a “less-developed” economy in rural central Europe, sought to invest profitably, smooth consumption, bridge low liquidity, and hold savings in financial form.

JEL Codes: N33

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