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... and forgive them their debts

Michael Hudson


Subtitle: Lending, Foreclosure, and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. ISLET - Verlag, Dresden, 2018, 311 pgs., index, extensive bibliography, foot notes, illustrations, paper back


Reviewer's comment: This is a very important book in which the author refutes many myths about the origin of money and banking. It is based on a detailed study over many years of the records still being translated about the economies of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The author has published many books on this subject and organized many conferences in which he brings together specialist scholars on the many little known details being literally uncovered by archeology and translation of cuneiform documents. See for instance his essay in David Landes' ed. book - The Invention of Enterprise - listed below.
Dr. Hudson is a severe critic of the exploitation of debt today, and the entire financial system. He provides a full history of the ancient economies overlooked or ignored by most economists. But his main motivation is to show that the fundamental conflict between debtors and creditors so prevalent today and during the historical times that modern economists study actually existed from the very beginning of settled societies. What he reveals is that during these really ancient eras such as Mesopotamia 3000 - 2000 BC it was the rulers (governments and temples) that instituted, for their own purposes, debt cancelation edicts (laws) to abolish private debt or prevent it. The rulers were opposed by private creditors seeking to expand their personal wealth at the expense of the general public. He considers that the same motivations are the basis for the modern conflict between debtors and creditors. For a summary of his thinking on this, read his Finance and Warfare, listed below.

In my opinion the problem that Marxist theoreticians such as Hudson and also Carl Wittfogel have is their total belief in human motivation based on economic activity. They simply cannot believe that individuals and whole societies base their activities, that result from decisions based on religions beliefs that provide them with their entire 'world view' and understanding of 'reality' and these activities are the historical evidence that the Marxist theoreticians (who do not simply ignore history) indicate results of 'economic' decisions.

Thus this whole book correctly describes results but ignores the beliefs which were the causes.


The Rise and Fall of Jubilee Debt Cancellations and Clean Slates


Archaic Economies versus Modern Preconceptions


The Major Themes of This Book


Part I Overview
1. A Babylonian Perspective on Liberty and Economic Order


2 - Jesus' First Sermon and the Tradition of Debt Amnesty


3 - Credit, Debt and Money: Their Social and Private Contexts


Part II: Social Origins of Debt
4. The Anthropology of Debt, from Gift Exchange to Wergild Fines


5. Creditors as Predators: The Anthropology of Usury


6. Origins of Commercial Interest in Sumer's Palaces and Temples


7. Rural Usury as a Lever to Privatize Land and Impose Bondage


Part III: The Bronze Age Invents Usury, But Counters Its Adverse Effects
8. War, Debt and amar-gi in Sumer: 2400 BC


9. Urukagina proclaims amar-gi: 2350 BC


10. Sargon's Akkadian Empore and its Collapse: 2300 - 2100 BC


11. Lagash Revives under Gudea and his Debt Cancellation: 2130 BC


12. Trade, Enterprise and Debt in Ur III: 2111 - 2004 BC


13. Isin Rulers replace Ur III and proclaim nig-si-sa: 2017 - 1861 BC


14. Diffusion of Trade via Assyrian Merchants: 1900 - 1825 BC


15. Privatizing Mesopotamia's Intermediate Period: 2000 - 1600 BC


16. Hammurabi's Laws and misarum Edicts: 1792 - 1750 BC


17. Freeing the Land and its Cultivators from Predatory Creditors


18. Samsuiluna's and Ammisadqa's milarum Edicts: 1749 - 1646 BC


19. Social Cosmology of Babylonia's Debt Cancellations


20. Usury and privatization in the Periphery: 1600 - 1200 BC


21. From the Dawn of the Iron Age to the Rosetta Stone: 1200 - 196 BC


Part IV: The Biblical Legacy
22. Judges, Kings and Usury: 8th and 7th Centuries BC


23. Biblical Prophets Call for Debt Cancellation


24. The Babylonian Impact on Judaic Debt Laws


25. From Religious Covenant to Hillel


26. Christianity Spiritualizes the Jubilee Year as the Day of Judgment


27. The Byzantine Echo


28. Zenith and Decline of Byzantium; 945 - 1204 AD



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Amanda Podany - Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

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Amanda Podany - Brotherhood of Kings

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David Landes, Joel Mokyr & William Baumol, eds. - The Invention of Enterprise

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J. G. Manning and Jan Morris - The Ancient Economy: Evidence and Models

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Joan Aruz, ed. Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C.

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Michael Hudson - Finance as Warfare

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