CfP: Gender, Credit and Creditworthiness in Premodern Cities

Call for papers: EAUH Helsinki, 24-27 August 2016
Gender, credit and creditworthiness in premodern cities (1200-1800)

Social scientists emphasize that women’s empowerment and economic development are closely interrelated and that, within this relationship, women’s abilities to participate in credit markets is of particular importance (Yunus 2008). Consequently, scholars have been encouraged to investigate this connection from a historical perspective. However, female involvement in credit markets and the gendered aspects of credit have been almost wholly ignored in studies of premodern finance. Those studies which do exist, have demonstrated that women’s participation in preindustrial credit networks was nevertheless considerable, especially in urban centers where trade was intense. Yet these studies remain limited – both in number and scope – by either focusing predominantly on certain periods and places (early modern England), or on certain groups (wealthy widows or Jewish women).

Credit was not only vital to the urban economy, it was also deeply embedded in social relations. Due to the high density of non-kinship ties in cities, trust was the foundation of creditworthiness. This importance of extrafamilial associations enabled urban women to play key roles outside the domestic sphere, including in credit networks. Moreover, it made individual reputation paramount when trying to obtain credit. Exploring credit thus allows to reassess gendered dimensions of reputation, in line with recent studies that have questioned the correlation of female reputation with sexual behavior as opposed to male reputation with economic status.
This session, therefore, invites scholars to further challenge traditional views of credit markets and creditworthiness in premodern cities. It aims to advance scholarly understanding of credit in three ways: 1) how various economic, social and cultural contexts influenced the role of gender in credit relationships; 2) what female participation in credit markets meant for urban economies and communities; and 3) how women’s involvement in credit markets contributed to their economic possibilities and reputation. By bringing together scholars working on a variety of cities in Europe and beyond, this session endeavors to reach a hitherto missing comparative understanding of premodern gender and credit.
We encourage scholars to explore the following themes, especially from a geographically or chronologically comparative perspective:
– Comparisons of women’s and men’s involvement in formal and informal credit markets (e.g. use of credit instruments, composition of credit networks, financial strategies);
– Gender boundaries of creditworthiness, reputation and sociability;
– Women’s participation in credit networks and their socioeconomic standing both within and without the domestic sphere;
– The relationship between gender, credit and economic roles (e.g. involvement in business, trade, labour opportunities);

Session organisers: Andrea Bardyn (University of Leuven, Belgium), Anne Bellavitis (University of Rouen, France), Cathryn Spence (University of New Brunswick, Canada)
More information and proposal submission: https://eauh2016.net. Deadline for proposals:
October 31, 2015.

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