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Abstract

The charging of interest for borrowing money, and the level at which it is charged, is of fundamental importance to the economy. Unfortunately, the study of the interest rates charged in the middle ages has been hampered by the diversity of terms and methods used by historians. This article seeks to establish a standardized methodology to calculate interest rates from historical sources and thereby provide a firmer foundation for comparisons between regions and periods. It should also contribute towards the current historical reassessment of medieval economic and financial development. The article is illustrated with case studies drawn from the credit arrangements of the English kings between 1272 and c.1340, and argues that changes in interest rates reflect, in part, contemporary perceptions of the creditworthiness of the English crown.