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Finance and the Middle Ages - Two new publications

The first article, Rich Pickings from Medieval Pilgrims, is available for download at the HistoryToday magazine's website, and was written by ICMA Centre Head of School, Professor Adrian Bell, and Professor Richard Dale. The article explores some striking parallels between modern marketing tactics and the management of shrines in the Middle Ages, discusses how Pilgrims were a lucrative source of income for the Church, and looks at the true cost of miracles.

The second article, Medieval Money Tricks, sees a collaboration between the ICMA Centre's Professor Adrian Bell, Professor Chris Brooks, and Dr Tony Moore and is available in January’s edition of BBC History Magazine.

The authors examine the evidence of financial irregularity in the Middle Ages and the methods used by Medieval merchants to circumvent Church laws against usury. Such methods included; lenders receiving valuable gifts “unrelated” to the loan, disguising interest as late repayment penalties on a loan that was officially interest-free, or disguising interest in different currency exchange rates for the loan and the repayment. These techniques are argued to have given way to a nascent capitalism, at the expense of a more ethical financial system.

Both publications offer a fascinating insight into the financial systems of the middle ages, and draw interesting comparisons to today's financial world.

Professor Adrian Bell will be delivering a public lecture on Modern finance in the Middle Ages: What history can tell us about current financial crises, on the 13th of February. He will explore how medieval financial innovations have many parallels with recent events, and look at what lessons we can learn from the past. The lecture is part of the University of Reading Public Series 2012-13 and is free to attend. More information can be found at this link

Published 15 January 2013
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