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Discourses of Debt and Lending in Medieval Iberia

January 27, 2014 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Gregory Milton standing in front of book shelves wearing glasses and a buttoned shirt

Monday Seminar:

Gregory Milton

Solmsen Fellow (2013-2014)

History, University of South Florida


The moral language of debt in medieval Iberia delineated a wide range of activity for Christians and Jews. People and communities attempted to define their roles and relationships through a complex lens of moral, economic, and social interests situated within a highly charged, and changing, reality of power. Religious dogma attempted to control and condemn. Institutional authorities of church and state debated and challenged each other on the regulation, legality, and morality of exchange for goods, money, and services as related to the concept of debt. At the same time, landed aristocrats defined the obligations of friendship and lordship through a moral language of debt and obligation shared, and conflicted, with the commercial, financial values of urban merchants and craftsmen. ‘Ordinary’ people from all levels of society conducted business with each other on a daily basis with little overt conflict.

In this seminar, I will explore these themes by considering some literary examples, legal and political conflicts, and everyday commercial transactions from Spanish kingdoms of Iberia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in order to illuminate how debt was an economic act, a social obligation, and a moral question, which linked differing cultural groups and classes in medieval Iberia through a variable web of shifting attitude and interests.


Gregory Milton has taught history at the University of South Florida, Marquette University, UCLA and the U.S. Naval Academy. His scholarship focuses on Europe and the Mediterranean during the Later Middle Ages, particularly the social effects of economic activity experienced by individuals and communities. His first book, Market Power: Lordship, Economy and Society in Medieval Catalonia (1276-1313) examined the development of the rural market town of Santa Coloma de Queralt, tracing the intersection of regional commercial interests, local lordship, and royal authority within the town’s market place. The regularity of commerce and credit in rural society for peasants and local nobility, along with the actions of Jews and Christians as enterprising businessmen, created complex economic, political, and cultural interactions across religious and social boundaries. Dr. Milton has published articles exploring the connection between religious identity and finance, about the transformation of written culture as notaries became professional scribes during the last quarter of the thirteenth century, as well as about the role of Jews as financiers in later medieval Iberia. A forthcoming article will address the marriage season of Santa Coloma as a combination of temporal and business activity in the formation of new rural households in Catalonia.


January 27, 2014
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States