Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State: France and Great Britain 1688-1789

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Does establishing representative democracy increase commitment to repaying public debt? This book develops a new theory about the link between debt and democracy and applies it to a classic historical comparison: eighteenth century Great Britain (which had strong representative institutions and sound public finance) vs. ancien regime France (which had neither). The study asserts that whether representative institutions improve commitment depends on the opportunities for government creditors to form coalitions with other groups. It is relevant to developing country governments with implications for government policy where credibility is a concern.

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Editorial Reviews

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"...offers a new approach to the subject. (Stasavage) is therefore able to buttress by his economic models the arguments previously advanced by historians to explain Britain's success and France's failure to develop an effective system of public credit in the eighteenth century. This makes his work of considerable value to those historians who have relied upon traditional approaches to these important questions." H.T. Dickinson, The International History Review

"Succinct and lucidly written, Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State is both a splendid introduction to a complex literature and a highly original contribution that is bound to generate new research and debate...His central discovery, that a regime's financial credibility depends as much on partisan politics as on institutions, can only enrich our understanding of the rise of the modern state." H-France Book Reviews

"...stimulating...based upon extensive reading in the secondary historical literature, and it raises some fundamental questions about our understanding of the eighteenth-century state." European History Quarterly

"Can readers assume that an estates general would have declared a bankruptcy in 1715 merely because St. Simon thought it should? And how far are we carried by the conclusion that French 'political instability' in 1789 'seems to have been linked to the absence of a stable majority based on moderate policies'? These and other issues suggest the difficulty of construing a distant past to propose timeless answers—reason enough for providing Stasavage's book to graduate students and faculty." Choice

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Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. A model of credible commitment under representative government; 3. Historical background: sovereign borrowing in Europe before 1688; 4. Trends in French and British sovereign borrowing 1689–1789; 5. Partisan politics and public debt in Great Britain: 1689–1789; 6. Partisan politics and public debt in France: 1689–1789; 7. Stability of representative institutions in France and Great Britain; 8. Conclusion.

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