The Character of Credit: Personal Debt in English Culture, 1740-1914

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Using a wide range of printed sources and paying particular attention to distinctions of gender and class, Margot Finn examines English consumer culture from three interlocking perspectives. Finn considers representations of debt in novels, diaries and autobiographical memoirs; the transformation of imprisonment for debt; and the use of small claims courts to mediate disputes between debtors and creditors. This major study of personal debt from 1740 to 1914 will appeal to social, legal and cultural historians, literary scholars and readers interested in the history of consumer culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This impressively researched, lucid, and often beautifully written book is a powerful testimony to the way interdisciplinary methodologies are transforming social, economic, legal, political, and gender history...Like all good books, this one inspires readers to think more deeply about their own time." Margaret R. Hunt, Amherst College, American Historical Review

" ambitious and important book...highly recommended..." EH.NET

"This is not just a book that deserves to be widely read, but a book which ought to prompt and guide a great deal of further research by historians following the paths opened up by Margot Finn." Institute of Historical Research

"Social History at its very best." Victorian Studies

"... fascinating and convincing new book... an important, accomplished, and highly informative work, and a valuable addition not only to the history of money in England but also to the work devoted to the social life of the economy." H-Albion (H-Net)

"Finn's excellent book offers both an important history of retail credit in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and a model of intelligent interdisciplinary history...Finn's analytic brilliance, her skill in weaving together many narratives , her ability to synthesize a massive body of recent scholarship will be valuable to historians, economists, lawyers, and literary scholars." Susan Staves, Brandeis University

"This is a rich book. Indeed, as the first book in the new Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories series it sets an impressively high standard." Working, Julian Hoppit, University College of London

"A wonderful book...this is an admirable work of scholarship, based on a wealth of primary sources. It will be read with advantage by business, economic, and social historians alike." Business History Review, Robin Pearson

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Margot C. Finn is Warwick Research Fellow and Reader in History at the University of Warwick. She is the author of After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics, 1848–1874 (CUP, 1993).

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations; List of tables; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction; Part I. Debt and Credit in English Memory and Imagination: 1. Fictions of debt and credit, 1740–1914; 2. Debt and credit in diaries and autobiographies; Part II. Imprisonment for Debt and the Economic Individual: 3. 'Mansions of misery': the unreformed debtors' prison; 4. Discipline or abolish? Reforming imprisonment for debt; Part III. Petty Debts and the Modernisation of English Law: 5. 'A kind of parliamentary magic': eighteenth-century courts of conscience; 6. From courts of conscience to county courts: small-claims litigation in the nineteenth century; 7. Market moralities: tradesmen, credit and the courts in Victorian and Edwardian England; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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