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    To their credit: the aristocracy and commercial credit in Europe, c.1750–1820

    Stobart, Jon ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9771-4741, Ilmakunnas, Johanna and Overkamp, Anne Sophie (2023) To their credit: the aristocracy and commercial credit in Europe, c.1750–1820. Journal of Modern European History. ISSN 1611-8944 (In Press)

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    Abstract

    The aristocracy and their use of commercial credit are seldom explored in European comparative context despite important studies of the French aristocracy and their credit relations with shopkeepers, tradesmen and fashion merchants. This article studies the aristocracy and commercial credit in England, Germany and Sweden, drawing on the normative literature and the account books, receipted bills, correspondence and diaries of several families occupying different echelons of the nobility. We examine the extent and nature of aristocratic engagement with shop credit, the ways in which they manipulated and managed this credit, and their motivations for doing so. We argue that the aristocracy was involved in a modern commercial credit economy and that this was central to their position in society and way of life. Our analysis of the ideals communicated through conduct books and parental advice and the actual credit practices of the aristocracy show that they took their credit arrangements seriously. They had to abide by the rules of commercial credit and settle their accounts: sometimes promptly, most often in a timely manner and only occasionally after considerable delay. The article offers a comparative framework for further and broader studies on the aristocracy within economic history.

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