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James VI (1567–1625) was chronically indebted, and this caused him frequent problems. This article presents two series of systematic data that together indicate the main contours of his indebtedness: (1) end-of-year deficits, and (2) hived-off debts which the Crown left unpaid for long periods (sometimes permanently). The hived-off debts, reconstructed individually, constitute a narrative of fiscal policy-making. Instead of a large and catastrophic bankruptcy, James in effect had numerous small bankruptcies. He benefited from an emerging structure of Scottish domestic credit. He eventually repaid many of his debts after succeeding to the English throne in 1603.