In June 1614, ‘on a day of correction’ held at the house of widow Elizabeth Thalthropp in Thirsk, Yorkshire, Thomas Bell, vicar of Felixkirk, accused the gentleman Thomas Edmondson of being a ‘huge knave’, a ‘notorious usurer’ and threatened to ‘make him do penance for his usury’. The words were spoken before a congregation of churchmen and neighbours gathered in Elizabeth’s home and led to a hotly contested suit of defamation. The depositions that followed reveal the activities of a professional money lender in the early seventeenth century.
This case really struck me when I encountered it in the deposition books from the Consistory Court at York as part of my research for the Forms of Labour project. Evidence of formal money lending in the depositions is not usually as clear as in this case. We have indications that long running accounts were ‘reckoned’ at harvest time when tithes were due and instances of testamentary cases show executors were left chasing outstanding debts owed to the deceased. Clearly the credit economy was prevalent in many of the exchanges and relationships we encounter in the deposition books. Rarely however, are there explicit accounts of the work involved in formal money lending. However, in this defamation case we have evidence that formal lending was indeed prevalent in the rural economy.
Three deponents confessed to having borrowed Continue reading