A book has arrived that will probably have to wait until my summer holiday, or at least Easter, but it has me mightily intrigued. It’s Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt, Taxes and Default in the Age of Philip II, by Mauricio Drelichman and Hans-Joachim Voth.
Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt, Taxes, and Default in the Age of Philip II (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
I know, I know. But if I’d not quixotically decided to apply to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford (to further my ambition of spending my life being a philosopher like Simone de Beauvoir in a Parisian cafe), and if I hadn’t got in, and if I’d not had a brilliant economics tutor in Peter Sinclair and so ended up being an economist, I would have done a history degree instead. At school we studied 16th and 17th century Europe – these were the days before British schools only taught the Tudors and the Nazis – and what times they were! Q by the Italian writing collective Luther Blisset gives a good flavour of it.
And as the intro to this book points out, in extraordinary times like 2008 and its aftermath, the long history of debt and default might hold useful lessons. Economists in general should pay more attention to economic history. History should be reintroduced as a requirement in all Econ PhD courses – I benefited greatly from courses by Barry Eichengreen and Steve Marglin in mine, possibly grumbling at the time, but young people don’t entirely know what’s good for them.
I’ve read the first three pages of The Borrower from Hell and am going to have to tear myself away….