Strategies of Survival: Pawn-broking and Credit Relations in Rome and Perugia (15th and 16th centuries)
Abstract This article deals with the instruments and forms of small-scale credit and pawnbroking organised by the Monti di Pietà of Rome and Perugia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These pawnshops offered small-scale credit for little interest and formed a crucial part of the strategies of survival of the working poor in late medieval and early modern Italian towns. This article analyses examples from the account books of the Roman Monte from the years 1585 to 1595 to show the manifold forms of credit and interpersonal credit networks created between the inhabitants of Rome at the end of the sixteenth century. The social structure of the Monte’s clientele will be studied as well as the essential role of pawn objects, mostly household items and clothes as stores of value, enabling the working poor to transform them into cash when needed. Using an approach that is inspired by anthropological works on the role of objects, this article aims at contributing to new perspectives of studying pre-modern small-scale credit.
Keywords pawn-broking, credit instruments, pawn-objects, working poor