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Dealing with Economic Failure

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

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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On 20/21 February 2014 the editors hosted an international and interdisciplinary conference on “Dealing with economic failures: extra-judicial and judicial conflict regulations”. Nine of the thirteen papers presented on that occasion are published in this volume; subsequently Jasper Kunstreich submitted his article. All papers were thoroughly revised before publication.

The editors met under the roof of the LOEWE Research Focus ‘Extrajudicial and Judicial Conflict Resolution’ (2012–2015), a project organized mainly by the Goethe-University Frankfurt a.M. and the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History. LOEWE is an ongoing programme of research funding by the state of Hesse, mainly focused on natural sciences, medicine and engineering; our research focus was among the few social science projects. Margrit Schulte Beerbühl was one of our research fellows, and Albrecht Cordes a member of the steering committee. While Albrecht Cordes is interested in the history of commercial law during the middle ages and early modern times in general, Margrit Schulte Beerbühl has done research on spectacular series of bankruptcies, namely the chain of collapses which originated in Hamburg in 1799 and subsequently shook the economy in Western Europe and even across the Atlantic Ocean. The crossroads of our interests and of the LOEWE subject were quickly identified: The ways medieval and modern societies dealt and deal with economic failure, concentrating on but not limited to the reaction on bankruptcies. Is the failure of an enterprise the ultimate defeat, a punishable crime and the terrible disaster? Or is...

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