|Posted by Conspiracy Cafe on June 3, 2018 at 1:15 PM|
by Paul B. Gallagher
This article is reprinted from the Winter 1995 issue of FIDELIO Magazine.
Six hundred and fifty years ago came the climax of the worst financial collapse in history to date. The 1930’s Great Depression was a mild and brief episode, compared to the bank crash of the 1340’s, which decimated the human population.
The crash, which peaked in A.C.E. 1345 when the world’s biggest banks went under, “led” by the Bardi and Peruzzi companies of Florence, Italy, was more than a bank crash—it was a financial disintegration. Like the disaster which looms now, projected in Lyndon LaRouche’s “Ninth Economic Forecast” of July 1994, that one was a blowup of all major banks and markets in Europe, in which, chroniclers reported, “all credit vanished together,” most trade and exchange stopped, and a catastrophic drop of the world’s population by famine and disease loomed.
Like the financial disintegration hanging over us in 1995 with the collapse of Mexico, Orange County, British merchant banks, etc., that one of the 1340’s was the result of thirty to forty years of disastrous financial practices, by which the banks built up huge fictitious “financial bubbles,” parasitizing production and real trade in goods. These speculative cancers destroyed the real wealth they were monopolizing, and caused these banks to be effectively bankrupt long before they finally went under.
The critical difference between 1345 and 1995, was that in the Fourteenth century there were as yet no nations. No governments had the national sovereignty to control the banks and the creation of credit; or, to force these banks into bankruptcy in an orderly way, and replace fictitious bank credit and money with national credit. Nor was the Papacy, the world leadership of the Church, fighting against the debt-looting of the international banks then as it is today; in fact, at that time it was allied with, aiding, and abetting them.
The result was a disaster for the human population, which fell worldwide by something like 25 percent between 1300 and 1450 (in Europe, by somewhere between 35 percent and 50 percent from the 1340’s collapse to the 1440’s).
This global crash, caused by the policies and actions of banks which finally completely bankrupted themselves, has been blamed by historians ever since on a king—poor Edward III of England. Edward revolted against the seizure and looting of his kingdom by the Bardi and Peruzzi banks, by defaulting on their loans, starting in 1342. But King Edward’s national budget was dwarfed by that of either the Bardi or Peruzzi; in fact, by 1342, his national budget had become a sub-department of theirs. Their internal memos in Florence spoke of him contemptuously as “Messer Edward”; “we shall be fortunate to recover even a part” of his debts, they sniffed in 1339.
A “free trade” mythology has been developed by historians about these “sober, industrious, Christian bankers” of Italy in the Fourteenth century—“doing good” by their own private greed; developing trade and the beginnings of capitalist industry by seeking monopolies for their family banks; somehow existing in peace with other merchants; and expiating their greedy sins by donations to the Church. But, goes the myth, these sober bankers were led astray by kings (accursed governments!) who were spendthrift, warlike, and unreliable in paying debtswhich they had forced the helpless or momentarily foolish bankers to lend them. Thus, emerging “private enterprise capitalism” was set back by the disaster of the Fourteenth century, concludes the classroom myth, noting in passing that 30 million people died in Europe in the ensuing Black Death, famine, and war. If only the “sober, Christian” bankers had stuck to industrious “free trade” and prosperous city-states, and never gotten entangled with warlike, spendthrift kings!
The Real Story
Two recent books help to overturn this cover story, although perhaps that is beyond the intention of their authors. Edwin Hunt’s 1994 book The Medieval Supercompanies: A Study of the Peruzzi Company of Florence,* establishes that this great bank was losing money and effectively going bankrupt throughout the late 1330’s, as a result of its own destructive policies—in Europe’s agricultural credit and trade in particular—before it ever dealt with Edward III. “Indeed, the great banking companies were able to survive past 1340 only because news of their deteriorated position had not yet circulated.” Just as in 1995.
And Hunt adds a shocker for the historians, based on exhaustive restudy of all the surviving correspondence and ledgers of the Bardi and Peruzzi. He concludes that their lending to King Edward III was done with such brutal “conditionalities”—seizing and looting his revenues—that his true debt to them may have been no more than 15-20,000 pounds-sterling when he defaulted. Mr. Hunt himself works for an international bank, so he knows how such “conditionalities” of lending work today. He probably knows that the true international debt of Third World countries today is a small fraction of what the banks and the International Monetary Fund claim they owe. He definitely understands that Fourteenth-century England was a Third World country to the Bardi, Peruzzi, and Acciaiuoli international banks. They loaned Edward II and Edward III far less than their promises—but their promises have been dutifully added up as “total loans” by historians, starting with their fellow banker Giovanni Villani.
Even if we accept the highest figures ever given for Edward III’s 1345 default against the bankers of Florence, the debt to them of the city government of Florence (which they controlled) was 35 percent greater, and those bonds were also defaulted upon.
More revealing is the latest work of the historian of Venice, Frederick C. Lane, Money and Banking in Medieval and Renaissance Venice.† This work shows that it was Venetian finance which, by dominating and controlling a huge international “bubble” of currency speculation from 1275 through 1350, rigged the great collapse of the 1340’s. Rather than sharing the peace of mutual greed and free enterprise with their “allies,” the bankers of Florence, the merchants of Venice bankrupted them, and the economies of Europe and the Mediterranean along with them. Florence was the Fourteenth-century “New York,” the apparent center of banking with the world’s biggest banks. But Venice was “London,” manipulating Florentine bankers, kings, and emperors alike, by tight-knit financial conspiracy and complete dominance of the markets by which money was minted and credit created.
As long ago as the 1950’s, in fact, one historian—Fernand Braudel—consciously demonstrated that Venice, leading the Italian bankers of Florence, Genoa, Siena, etc., willfully intervened from the beginning of the Thirteenth century, to destroy the potential emergence of national governments, “modern states foreshadowed by the achievements of Frederick II.”§Frederick II Hohenstauffen was the Holy Roman Emperor in the first half of the Thirteenth century, an able successor of Charlemagne’s earlier achievements in spreading education, agricultural progress, population growth, and strong government. The great Dante Aligheri wrote his seminal De Monarchia in a vain attempt to revive the potential of imperial government based on Divine Law and Natural Law, which had been identified with Frederick’s reign.
Wrote Braudel, “Venice had deliberately ensnared all the surrounding subject economies, including the German economy, for her own profit; she drew her living from them, preventing them from acting freely. ... The Fourteenth-century saw the creation of such a powerful monopoly to the advantage of the city-states of Italy ... that the embryo territorial states like England, France and Spain necessarily suffered the consequences.” In addition to what Braudel shows, Venice intervened to stop the accession of Spain’s Alfonso the Wise, as successor to Emperor Frederick II.
This triumph of “free trade” over the potential for national government, rigged the Fourteenth century’s global human catastrophes, the worst onslaught of death and depopulation in history. It was not until the Renaissance created the French nation-state under Louis XI, one hundred years later, and then England under Henry VII, and Spain under Ferdinand and Isabel, that the human population would begin to recover.
I cannot stress the importance of this history. It is the writing on the wall as the front cover illustrates. The Venetian bankers were in control of the Mongol armies that devastated Europe and Asia and the Middle East. They dictated which cities would be destroyed. Imagine my surprise that the same cities have been the subject of a modern day Mongol army. They include Kiev and what is now Budapest and the cities along the central European rivers. It is obvious the migrant armies are here for a destabilizing process. The major banks were in trouble for decades. The depth of the crises were covered up. They got everyone into debts they could never repay much like today to acquire everyone's land. They controlled global trade. They ran an early type of derivatives market and engaged in widespread speculation. Finally in 1345 the two biggest banks in the world imploded. The whole system crashed except for small German banking systems not tied to the Florentines and Venetians. How we have lasted this long is testimony to great luck, but remember it started in what is now Italy. That same Italy is teetering again, and this time the German banks are connected to the global system. It may well be something like the BRICS that survive this one. Starvation resulted from this along with plague and war. It would be nice to pave a way out of another calamity like a total global financial collapse.