Credit Networks between City and Countryside in Late Medieval Lucca
Abstract This paper considers small-scale credit relationships formed by the physician Maestro Iacopo di Coluccino Bonavia da Lucca to rural clients in late medieval Tuscany, especially the commune of Lucca, in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. His memorandum sheds light on informal credit practices that occurred amongst ordinary people and which were embedded in the context of their socio-economic relationships. Iacopo’s lending activities, particularly those extended to his rural clients, coincided with the seasonal cycle of agriculture, frequently taking the form of lending in kind and sale on credit. Such loans were made to parties with whom Iacopo had shared interests, primarily tenant farmers on his rural estates. Yet while these loans had an assistive character in that Iacopo made loans available even to insolvent peasants who had faced repeated crises, he had no qualms taking legal action against those who were able but unwilling to repay. Maestro Iacopo’s credit practices constitute part of a dense credit network established between city and countryside, as well as of a substantial sphere of local finance in late medieval Italy.
Keywords small credit, city and countryside, memorandum, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy