2011년 8월 30일 화요일

[자료] Genoese fairs, financial transactions, clearinghouse in the 16th and 17th century

자료 1: Europe divided, 1559-1598 
지은이: John Huxtable Elliott

※ 발췌:

Philip II drew the inevitable conclusion from the Flanders fiasco. On 5 Dcember 1577 an agreement was reached, known as the ^medio general^, by which both parties made concessions and the Crown revoked the decree of suspension of 1575. For the following decades, the Genoese reigned supreme. Although Philip engaged, when he could, in hopeful flirtations with the prosperous Grand Duke oof Tuscany, Francis de Medici, the credit resources of Florence were unfortunately no match for those of Genoa. The Genoese knew the strength of their positin and made the most of it, extracting major concessions from the crown, which included regular licenses to export from Spain a substantial proportion of the American bullion unloaded at Seville. This enabled them to dominate Europe's silver-routes and its system of exchange. This system revolved around  the 'fairs of Besançon', first established at Besançon, in the Franche-Comté, in 1534, and transferred on a permanent basis to Piacenza in 1579. During the 1580s and 1590s these quarterly fairs became the great European clearing-house for financial transactions. It was at Piacenza that exchange-rates were fixed, old debts paid off and fresh debts incurred, and that Castilian silver ^reales^ were bought, sold and exchanged for letters of change and for gold needed for certain essential payments, including that of the army in Flanders. From the Genoa-Piacenza comlex, new monetary routes wound their way across the continent, linking Spain, Italy and Flanders in a close financial network. In the past, American silver for the Netherlands had been hazardously shipped to Antwerp from Laredo, or had occasionally been sent overland by way of France. But increasingly from the 1570s it took the road from Seville through Madrid to Barcelona, where it was put on board ship for transport to Genoa. In a world in which silver was king, the rise of Barcelona-Genoa route brought Barcelona back into the mainstream of economic activity, and provided an added enticement for the bandit gangs which were increasingly disturbing the life of Catalonia. 

지은이: Giuseppe Felloni

※ 발췌:

Chapter 9 - Clearing house


The increase in exchange is a powerful factor in economic growth, as long as there is no shortage of the means of payment. If this happens, the multiplication of business transactions stops. A clever way to overcome the problem is with the balancing of debits and credits: An easy process when only two people are involved but more complicated with several people in the picture. A solution to this was presented by the clearing houses linked to the Genoese exchange fairs (at their height between 1580 and 1630) where the business transactions of half of Europe were conducted and cleared. Only later, in 1773, the first clearing house of the contemporary era would open: The London Clearing House.

Historical background

From the end of the XIV century through the late XIX century, bills of exchange (“cambi”) were the only known method of international payment other than cash. Their use was hindered for a long time by the fact that they were payable only at the domicile of the drawee. Therefore creditors and debtors began to meet at prearranged locations, and at set times, to settle their outstanding accounts.

Exchange fairs of modern times were in fact markets held periodically with the express purpose of dealing with “cambi” to and from the main cities of the whole continent. These fairs were a Genoese creation, based on the mixed exchange and merchandise fairs held especially in Geneva, Antwerp and Lyons in the XV and XVI centuries. Excluded for political reasons from the Lyons market, Genoese traders had to move their activities to Besançon in 1535. They then kept meeting both there and in other locations such as Piacenza, Novi Ligure and, later, Sestri Levante.

The fairs were regulated by rules formulated by the Genoese Senate and took place in a government building or a private house. They usually lasted eight days and were held quarterly; depending on the time when they took place, were called Apparition, Easter, August and All Saints fairs.

These events were administered mainly by the Genoese with the occasional intervention of foreign merchants and had a very long life, lasting until at least 1763. The financial transactions consisted of the settlement of both commercial business and interest bearing loans (the latter considered illegal by the Church and in the eyes of the law). Besides making it possible to pay for merchandise in far away lands without taking risks with the transportation of cash, it was also possible to repay a loan, concealing the interest in the differences in exchange rate between various cities. The golden age of the Genoese fairs was the three decades around the year 1600, when they played a major role in funding the Spanish crown.

The main function of the fairs was to:
a) Accept bills of exchange previously issued in other cities and due to expire at the fair.
b) Negotiate new bills of exchange issued at fairs and due to expire in the cities.
c) Settle previous transactions via reciprocal compensation and payment in cash of outstanding balances.

To conduct these operations a common currency was necessary as a reference. The system was based on the “scudo di marco” as currency unit, on “gold scudo”as actual money and on a fixed ratio between the two. The fairs worked therefore like a booster which every three months attracted bills of exchange from across Europe, issued new ones and completed all transactions with a minimal use of hard cash. The participants, called “cambisti” (exchangers) or “trattanti” (dealers), could be owners of trading businesses, banks from the various cities where fairs took place, or employees, agents or representatives acting by proxy.

Each fair followed a rigorous format. The first day involved the registration of the proxys of participants and the acceptance of the bills of exchange due to expire. During the second day each operator calculated the difference between the debits and the credits vis à vis every other participant and gathered together the resulting totals into a balance sheet called the “bilancio delle accettazioni” (balance sheet of acceptances). The balances of the participants were verified and agreement reached on credits and debits which could be reciprocally cancelled and on outstanding sums due. In the following days the official exchange rate of the “marco” currency unit for other cities was established and new bills of exchange were issued and sold. The bankers updated their business transactions one by one and their reciprocal financial positions. The results were gathered together in a final “balance sheet of payments” similar to the ones previously illustrated, recording the sums owed and expected from each participant. Debtors then verified the accuracy of the amounts they owed on the balance sheets by comparison with the balance sheets of their creditors, and vice versa: The amounts had to correspond, albeit with opposite plus or minus signs, and their sum had to add up to zero. On the last day the balance sheets were countersigned by the bankers or by their legal representatives and were delivered to the Consul of the fair, who applied his official seal and closed the fair. “In a moment”, recounts a witness, “the room is left empty and, without regard for the time or the season, the participants set off back to their homes”.

Chapter 10. The protection of financial capital and the “very wise” laws of Genoa

Right from its beginning the monetary market has been characterised by two linked, secular phenomena: Devaluation of the unit of account and price inflation. These have implications for the settlement of term bonds: The loss of value in currency between the time of entering into a debt and the time of its repayment can fall: 1) On the debtor, if the principle of equality between the purchasing power of the money loaned and that of the money refunded is applied; or 2) on the creditor, if the nominalist principle of numeric equality between the units of account given and those received is applied. The problem was well known in Genoa and after the first measures devised by creditors to transfer the loss to the debtor, a well constructed act of law was passed to deal with this matter.


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