Medieval money tricks

Financial irregularity has made it into the news many times in recent years. As Adrian Bell, Chris Brooks and Tony Moore reveal, similar tactics were commonplace in the Middle Ages

A loan transaction being recorded in a ledger, shown in a work by Marinus Van Reymerswaele. (Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

Financial engineering has not had a good press of late. A whole alphabet soup of complex financial practices have been blamed for the recent financial crisis. One such process, called securitisation, saw banks bundling up thousands of loans – many of which had been made to borrowers who would have trouble meeting the repayments – into large, hugely complex products and selling them on to investors.

Even now, some of the world’s largest banks are being investigated for manipulating LIBOR, a key financial standard determining the interest rates charged to millions of borrowers.
This complicated relationship between financial innovation and wider economic, political and social considerations is not new, however, and can be traced back to the Middle Ages and even beyond.

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