english epidemic social change

Dreaming about social change in the time of COVID

Back in March 2020, like many friends and colleagues, I was hoping (or rather dreaming) that the Covid-19 might help to generate a new kind of economy, a new kind of society… The dream dissolved before I knew it. I find a trace of the wonder and hope caused by the pandemic in this interview I gave to CBS News Seattle on March 30, 2020.

The interview starts at 40:10

english financial history

Early Modern Financial History series of online seminars

First two upcoming seminars

Tuesday 24 November 2020 via Zoom, 8:00-9:00 New York, 13:00-14:00 Lisbon/London, 14:00-15:00 Bern/Amsterdam, 22:00-23:00 Tokyo

Claudio Marsilio (Universidade de Lisboa): Rethinking the role of the Genoese bankers in the credit and bullion markets. New evidence from Genoese and Florentine private archives (1630-1700)

Tuesday 8 December 2020 via Zoom, 8:00-9:00 New York, 13:00-14:00 London, 14:00-15:00 Bern/Amsterdam, 22:00-23:00 Tokyo

Nadia Matringe (LSE): Commission trading and the use of the bill of exchange as a clearing instrument in 16th century Lyon

Please register here


We are launching a series of online seminars dedicated to early modern financial history. Early modernity (15th-18th century) represents a fascinating period in the history of finance. It was a time of intense experimentation and innovation, which led to a far-reaching transformation of the European financial system, with profound political, social, and cultural consequences not only in Europe but also worldwide.

english financial history

A social vs. an institutional history of the “Financial Revolution” and the importance of experimentation. Part 1

Since P.G.M. Dickson’s seminal study about post-1688 England, “Financial Revolution” (hereafter FR) has become a key notion for economic and financial historians.[1]

english travels

Two 1720 schemes about new inland connections between Europe and East Asia

Among the multitude of undertakings projected in 1720, two schemes stand out for their grandiose ambition: creating, inland, a new and quicker connection between Europe and East Asia. However, besides their similar objective, the two undertakings were entirely different.

english history of food

Notes on the history of coffee

At the beginning, coffee was connected to Islamic mysticism. In the second half of the 15th century Yemenis Sufis started drinking coffee to help them stay awake and reach ecstasy in their nightly devotions. The Yemenis had been importing the beans from Ethiopia (where the coffee plant grew naturally), but they soon began to cultivate them in their own land. From Yemen the beverage spread along the Red Sea to Hedjaz and Egypt, and from there to the Ottoman Empire: by the early 16th century its consumption had massively widened beyond the circles of Sufis. A new institution, the coffeehouse, appeared. From Mecca to Cairo and from Istanbul to Algiers coffeehouses multiplied and attracted more and more clients. This is when social and legal issues arose.

english prodigies

A sea monster in Sicily (May 1716)

The 19 May 1716 the Weekly Journal (one of the major British newspapers of the time) reported on its front page that a sea monster had been seen near the city of Milazzo in Sicily. The creature uttered frightening neighs and had “an horrible size and figure”, resembling to a kind of horse with six feet and two heads, each with a horn on the forefront and elephant-like ears. It appeared for three consecutive days, emerging from the sea around nine in the morning, walking for about four hours on the shore, and plunging again in the water “with that force that the place where it went in foam’d a quarter of an hour afterwards.” According to the paper, the inhabitants of Sicily were extremely worried as they believed the sea monster was possibly “a forerunner of dismal calamities.”

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