chapter  5
10 Pages

The Amsterdam Wisselbank's Innovations in the Monetary Sphere: The Role of 'Bank Money'

From its very foundation, the Amsterdam Wisselbank has been praised by bankers as well as by scholars for its pre-eminent role in early-modern national monetary policies and international nance.1 In 1776 Adam Smith called it ‘the great warehouse of Europe for bullion’ and more recently Simon Schama described it as the ‘watchdog of capitalism in Amsterdam’, the ‘church of Dutch capitalism’.2 In ‘European Banking in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times’, in A History of European Banking, I put forward the hypothesis that in the early-modern period the Low Countries produced an autonomous Financial Revolution, one that should be considered as a crucial link between the late-medieval Italian Financial Revolution and the eighteenth-century English Financial Revolution.3 I also suggested that the real innovations, as far as nancial techniques were concerned, occurred in Antwerp during the sixteenth century. In this hypothesis the Amsterdam Wisselbank was, from a technical point of view, a primarily conservative institution, simply following the Italian banking traditions of the eenth and sixteenth centuries. If innovations in nancial techniques did occur in Amsterdam during its Golden Age, they originated mainly in the sectors of private banking.