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Dealing with Economic Failure

Between Norm and Practice (15th to 21st Century)

Edited By Albrecht Cordes and Margrit Schulte Beerbühl

Dealing with economic failure is one of the persistent and ubiquitous features of economic life. This volume brings together international scholars from several academic disciplines – economic and social history, legal history and law. They address a variety of different aspects on economic failure ranging from case studies on bankruptcy, insolvency, speculation, and strategies of coping with economic and financial squeezes. One focus throughout the book is on the in-betweens and the reciprocal impact of law and practice. The timeframe covers the period from the late middle ages to the present day. Irrespective of the temporal, spatial or cultural differences a slow and tedious evolution from a creditor-friendly to a more debtor-friendly perspective can be perceived. The chances for a fresh start have slightly improved.
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D. De ruysscher - The Struggle for Voluntary Bankruptcy and Debt Adjustment in Antwerp (c. 1520–c. 1550)

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D. De ruysscher1

The Struggle for Voluntary Bankruptcy and Debt Adjustment in Antwerp (c. 1520–c. 1550)

Legal history concerning early modern insolvency and bankruptcy has often focused on the proverbial “stick”. Much attention has been paid to rules that allowed for a swift liquidation of a bankrupt’s estate and to penalties for fraud. Solutions that were based on cooperation of the debtor and which facilitated postponements, or a fresh start after the bankruptcy, have unfortunately received less attention. This disparity in the scholarly literature has to do with a focus on normative texts and with a relative neglect of the forensic and mercantile practices surrounding phenomena of indebtedness and insolvency. Legislation tended to be harsh, whereas its implementation was usually less rigid and straightforward. Quite recently economic historians in particular have started analysing statistical data concerning insolvency practices in France in the nineteenth century, which clearly demonstrate many efforts towards negotiation.2 As a result of their findings, these historians have come to react against the views conventionally proposed in the ‘law-and-finance’ literature, inclined as these interpretations are to consider liquidation as the most efficient means of tackling persistent payment problems.3 ← 77 | 78 →

Another reason for the afore-mentioned bias towards tough measures and the liquidation of businesses is a conceptual and even an ideological one, much related to the economic literature belonging to a Schumpeterian tradition. Along these lines legal historians have, for example, labelled the early modern French practice of...

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