Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

French local public finances before the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations: actors and financing circuits in Dunkerque between 1770 and 1822

Le Coz Sophie, Université de Lorraine - BETA Nancy UMR 7522

Our PhD dissertation analyzes the loan as the French municipalities' funding mode. We investigate different times of capitalism: the "merchant" one, the "banking" one and the “financial” one. By its peculiarities (characteristics, actors, institutions and interactions that appear gradually) each “type” of loan is an indicator of the period of capitalism during which it has been practiced. This paper (work in progress) focuses the 1770-1822 period and scrutinizes the finances of the Dunkerque municipality. All in all, loans and usury had been practiced (often in hidden way) since Antiquity. In France, they had been forbidden at the early Midlle Age under Charlemagne in 789 (Gjidara, 1999), and had been scrutinized by the Church for a long time (Todeschini, 2017; Lavigne OP, 2005). But this will not have prevent communities of inhabitants to borrow money (Luchaire, 1890; Lambron, 1908, Duplouy, 1964). As a matter of fact, lending money to a community, a village or a town was strategic game for power. These strategies were taking place at all levels of the structure of the society (Chevalier, 1971; Boone, 1997) : between the king of France and the local lords, between local lords and the bourgeois (the inhabitants of a village (“bourg”)). The profile of lenders is very diverse: rich merchants, religious communities, nobles (Hourblin, 2008). At the last decade of the Ancien Régime, it appears clearly how and to what extent the massive, continual and growing indebtedness of the royal state had turned up side down local finances and borrowings. With the Revolution and the decree of the 12 October 1789, money lending and interest rates have became official: they were clearly written on a contract, not hidden behind practices (Fontaine, 2012). This release reorganized the interactions between the actors: between lenders, between lenders and the communities, between the actors of the municipality council. The institutional, legal and economic transformations that have occurred between 1789 and 1822 (creation of administrative and territorial divisions (1789, 1792), end of corporations (1791), French civil code (1804), Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (1816), etc) change usual practices drastically (section I). The first city to which was granted a loan by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations has been Dunkerque in 1822. We explore the municipal archives (corporations’ collection, account collection, municipality's deliberations) in order to report on the changes in local financing « circuits ». This second part (in progress) presents our results (section II).


Keywords: Ancien Régime, local public finances, french municipalities, loans and practices of borrowing

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