Penurious Payments: Debt, Dependence, and Communal Form in Eighteenth-Century Britain


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation analyzes literary misrepresentations of economic life. Following recent work in early modern economic history, we can no longer see credit as an expedient used to navigate a cash economy. Just the opposite is nearer the truth: cash was the expedient used to navigate an economy primarily based on credit. Yet in much of the literature of the period, credit is presented as an exceptional phenomenon, a troubling expedient to be avoided except in dire cases of contingency—a representation that fails to capture the economic realities faced by people of all classes. The project argues that the utility of credit as a category in moral argument hampered its descriptive potential, and that this distance from verisilimilitude gives us new openings to interpret the literature and history of the period.