Una fiera senza luogo. Was Bisenzone an offshore capital market in sixteenth-century Italy?
This paper discusses how Genoese bankers collected money at exchange fairs. This money was then lent to the King of Spain - through the asientos - from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. Genoese bankers raised capital at the exchange fairs , which were typical short-term credit mechanism, where foreign bills of exchange were discounted over a three-month period. The Genoese funded long-term obligations by means of short term loans which meant they were able to enforce payment to the King and at the same time successfully manage the supply of finance from a large number of easily substitutable markets, located in different states. The Bisenzone fair of exchange was the forerunner to an efficient, widely integrated international capital market where Genoese pre-eminence was firmly established and which the Genoese kept firmly under their control. The success of the Bisenzone fairs of exchange directly challenges the theory which suggests that the laws against usury restrained the development of capital markets in early modern Italy.
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