Serial Defaults, Serial Profits: Returns to Sovereign Lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600
42 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2010
Date Written: September 29, 2010
Philip II of Spain accumulated debts equivalent to 60% of GDP. He also defaulted four times on his short-term loans, thus becoming the first serial defaulter in history. Contrary to a common view in the literature, we show that lending to the king was profitable even under worst-case scenario assumptions. Lenders maintained long-term relationships with the crown. Losses sustained during defaults were more than compensated by profits in normal times. Defaults were not catastrophic events. In effect, short-term lending acted as an insurance mechanism, allowing the king to reduce his payments in harsh times in exchange for paying a premium in tranquil periods.
Keywords: Sovereign Debt, Serial Default, Rate of Return, Profitability, Spain
JEL Classification: N23, F34, G12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation