A well-functioning economy requires a well-functioning bankruptcy system. However, our knowledge of insolvency and bankruptcy is remarkably limited. This anthology brings together new international research from a wide range of academic disciplines – law, business administration, economics, history and economic history – and there is a correspondingly broad range of themes in the volume.
One theme running through the book involves institutional change in the systems that have been created to deal with insolvency. How have they affected creditors and debtors? How have they affected the economy? And how have older regulations been adapted to the demands of new economic systems and organizational innovations?
Another theme involves how lawmakers and people in general have explained the causes of insolvency and how they have viewed insolvents. In classical antiquity, insolvency was regarded as equal to theft from the creditor. That remained the dominant view for many centuries, and insolvents were subjected to harsh treatment. Beginning in the 19th century, there has been a process of redefinition, and bankruptcies are no longer regarded as a consequence of moral shortcomings but simply as economic failures.