The social history of finance

The social history of finance (1800-today)

Why was it that in Western economies banks only began to reach deep into society during the 1960s and 1970s? The half century that passed between their creation in the late 19th and early 20th century and the widespread use of their services by households suggests that, for a very long time, many households managed their finances differently. But which services did they use, and when, how and why did the providers of those alternatives make way for banks? What drove this fundamental change in household finance and why did it not come earlier? Current research on financial development has no answers to these questions. THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF FINANCE proposes a new conceptual framework to capture the long-term development of the financial system and the social context in which it took shape. The project analyzes (1) the long-term development of financial services provided by banks and other suppliers, notably governments and the social networks in which households were embedded; (2) continuity and change in the financial demand of households; and (3) the suppliers’ adaptation of financial services to changes in both the demand of households and the supply of financial services by other providers. The project develops this new social history of finance through an in-depth investigation of household finance in Belgium and The Netherlands in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will serve as a benchmark for future work on the evolution of financial systems.

Mapping the Market

Mapping the Market. The Credit Transactions of Antwerp's Business Community in the 19th Century.

This research project, financially supported by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB), explores the evolution of social and spatial credit networks in Antwerp and its surroundings between 1800 and 1900. Both credit relationships through notaries and so-called direct ("onderhandse") contracts are subject of research. (Promoters: Marc DeloofOscar GelderblomRogier van Kooten and Ruben Peeters).


The Social History of Finance is funded by the FWO Flanders Odysseus programme. The Odysseus programme provides outstanding researchers who have built up a career outside Flanders, a start-up funding in order to develop or to set up a research line during a five-year period a research group within a Flemish university, potentially in collaboration with (an)other Flemish research organization(s), and become progressively more involved in the Flemish research landscape.