In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Banking and Money

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Private Bankers and Public Finances
  • Banking Instruments and Techniques
  • Usury
  • History of Money
  • Money Markets in Specific Areas
  • Monetary Policies
  • Precious Metals and Mints
  • Money and the Other Means of Payment
  • Interest
  • Money of Account
  • Coins and Numismatics

Renaissance and Reformation Banking and Money
Francesco Guidi Bruscoli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 January 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0120


Economic historians have published widely on the “crisis of the 14th century.” Money supply and monetary circulation, among other issues, have formed the basis of the discussion together with demographic changes and aspects of production. Monographic studies on banking have focused on a variety of themes, including primacy/modernity, types/functions, and technical instruments. There are, however, no comprehensive overviews on Renaissance money and banking. The disciplinary division between medieval and early modern history tends to discourage studies that examine the Renaissance period in its entirety: medievalists rarely reach beyond 1500, whereas modernists seldom venture as far back as the 15th century. Especially in the minefield of monetary history, quantitative approaches have at times been accompanied by evaluation of price trends. Some economists have undertaken monetary and banking history, frequently seen in the light of evolution/development, providing long-term analyses from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. There are, on the other hand, several studies that examine a specific geographic area over a short period of time. Given the lack of overviews, it is crucial to look at collected essays (mainly conference proceedings) for a general overview and a comparative analysis. This bibliography also includes a handful of single-authored article collections that are the result of many years of research in this specific field. The governing principle behind this bibliography is to provide an orientation for studies solely or for the most part concerned with the history of Renaissance banking and money. As the most important bankers, however, were fairly often engaged in trade and entrepreneurship, it is necessary at times to take a broader approach.

General Overviews

Given the absence of monographic overviews on Renaissance banking, it is best to refer to edited collections of studies, which are often the result of international conferences. Società Ligure di Storia Patria 1991 is the most comprehensive collection, with studies relating to both private and public banks across Europe, whereas Società Italiana degli Storici dell’Economia 1988 is limited to a series of Italian case studies. Vannini Marx 1985 focuses mainly on credit and credit instruments. University of California, Los Angeles, Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1979 deals with the early stages of banking both in practice and in theory, whereas Goldsmith 1987 presents snapshots of single case studies to evaluate the connections between financial structures and economic development. Van der Wee 1994 is intended for a wider audience and provides an excellent history of banking.

  • Goldsmith, Raymond W. Premodern Financial Systems: A Historical Comparative Study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511895630

    A selection of case studies from Antiquity to the 17th century covering Europe, the Middle East, India, and Japan. Using a quantitative approach, the author analyzes interrelations between financial structures and economic development.

  • Società Italiana degli Storici dell’Economia, ed. Credito e sviluppo economico in Italia dal Medio Evo all’Età Contemporanea: Atti del primo convegno nazional, 4–6 giugno 1987. Verona, Italy: Società Italiana degli Storici dell’Economia, 1988.

    Collection of essays with an Italian focus only partly devoted to the Renaissance.

  • Società Ligure di Storia Patria, ed. Banchi pubblici, banchi privati e monti di pietà nell’Europa preindustriale: Amministrazione, tecniche operative e ruoli economici; atti del convegno, Genova, 1–6 ottobre 1990. 2 vols. Genova, Italy: Società Ligure di Storia Patria, 1991.

    Multilingual volume dealing with issues related to private and public banking (but also legal issues and the development of techniques) in various European countries. Many of the essays are case studies, but there are also more comprehensive articles.

  • University of California, Los Angeles, Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ed. The Dawn of Modern Banking. Papers presented at a conference held at UCLA, 23–25 September 1977. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

    Covers Europe and the Near East and tackles the origins of banking both in practice and in thought. Jacques Le Goff’s article, for example, explains how the bankers were influenced by the Church’s doctrine but also underlines that the latter in turn had to take into account fast-developing banking practices.

  • Van der Wee, Herman, ed. A History of European Banking. Antwerp, Belgium: Fonds Mercator, 1994.

    Less specialist than the other works in this section, this book offers a very clear overview on banking history from Antiquity to the 20th century.

  • Vannini Marx, Anna, ed. Credito, banche e investimenti: Secoli XIII–XX; Atti delle settimane di studio e altri convegni. Florence: Le Monnier, 1985.

    Belated publication of a 1972 conference. The essays cover preindustrial Europe, and those relating to the Renaissance are devoted mainly to the history of credit, with only a limited focus on monetary policies.

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