KEYNOTE PAPERS

Prof. Lena Cowen Orlin (Georgetown), 'Living and Dying with Debt in Early Modern England'
17:30 - 20.09.2017

Wills, probate inventories, and other personal papers reveal the degree to which debt was on the minds of early moderns on their deathbeds. Both for them and for their survivors, debt could be the most important of legacies. Bequeathed debt joined the earned debt that all early moderns juggled day-to-day. The illiterate reveal themselves to have been astonishingly numerate, carrying detailed financial accounts in memory. This paper introduces individual stories great and small for how early moderns dealt with debt in practical terms, and it ends with a biographical case study. How was Shakespeare’s life story shaped by debt?

Prof. Craig Muldrew (Cambridge), 'From Public to Private Obligation: The Rise of Paper Credit and the Decline of Litigation in England c. 1680 to 1740'
17:30 - 21.09.2017

This paper will examine the degree to which written notes of hand and endorsed bills came to be used as liquid local currency.  These were often backed up by equity released on mortgages, and helped to reduce blockages caused by chains of unpaid debts, which reduced the need for litigation. It will also examine the rise of interest bearing investments such as mortgages, government debt, or company shares with dividends. Finally, it will address what social effects this move away from public dispute resolution might have had on local social relations. In doing so it will examine such topics as the laws of conveyancing, literacy and numeracy, and the new theology of the self and happiness.

Prof. Lorna Hutson (Oxford), 'Debts and Doorways in Renaissance Comedy'
16:30 - 22.09.2017

Cultural and material histories now enjoy much greater explanatory currency, as far as English drama goes, than older formalistic studies of source, influence and genre. Linking ‘debt’ and ‘doorways’, this paper will argue for a formalistic element in Renaissance comedy’s preoccupation with plots of debt, a link between the conjectural uncertainty of the time of owing, and the imaginative power of off-stage space, the space hidden behind the door. English drama, far from rejecting neoclassicism, the paper argues, embraces the imaginative power of conjectured, off-stage scenes, purging these of their libidinal and prodigal associations. The paper looks at debt and doorways in Plautus, Ariosto and Shakespeare.