Journal Articles

Italian City-States and Financial Evolution

2006, European Review of Economic History

Michele U. Fratianni


The term financial revolution has been abused in the literature. Revolution connotes a sharp and unique break from the past that should stand up to careful historical scrutiny, but in fact it does not. Evolution describes financial history better than revolutions. We compare the classic  “financial  revolutions” with the financial innovations of Genoa, Venice and Florence in the Quattrocento and  Cinquecento and the upshot is that these Italian city-states –the two maritime cities more than Florence -- had developed many of the features that were to be found later on in the Netherlands, England and the United States. The importance of  the early financial innovators has been eclipsed by the fact that these city-states did not survive politically. Instead, the innovations were absorbed in the long chain of financial evolution and, in the process, lost the identity of their creators.


Fratianni, Michele U. and Franco Spinelli, "Italian City-States and Financial Evolution", European Review of Economic History, 2006, Vol.10, 3: 257-278. 


financial revolution, credibility, debt, public bank, Florence, Genoa, Venice.

Kelley School of Business

Faculty & Research