Cover: City of Debtors: A Century of Fringe Finance, from Harvard University PressCover: City of Debtors in HARDCOVER

City of Debtors

A Century of Fringe Finance

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Product Details


$45.00 • £32.95 • €40.50

ISBN 9780674976238

Publication: January 2018


376 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 table


Fleming has taken a fragmented history and turned it into a compelling narrative, about not only fringe lending but also the fraught relationship that Americans have long had with consumer debt, and specifically its role in poverty alleviation.—Rowena Olegario, Business History Review

Fleming’s fascinating, carefully researched study reveals the pivotal role New York played in the development of consumer-credit regulation. New York might be an outlier in the twenty-first century, but at the turn of the twentieth century, when small-sum loans originated, every major thread was connected to the events and personalities of New York.—Ronald J. Mann, author of Bankruptcy and the U.S. Supreme Court

Anne Fleming’s pathbreaking narrative of small-sum lending in New York City brings alive loan sharks, lenders seeking respectability, reformers, crusading lawyers, and the debtors themselves, all while focusing on a problem that plagues us to this day: the poor need money desperately, have little credit to obtain it, and thus are easy marks for exploitation.—Robert W. Gordon, author of Taming the Past: Essays on Law in History and History in Law

Loan sharks and banks reside on a single lending continuum. Fleming takes us to the only space on that continuum where marginal wage-earners could legally, albeit expensively, borrow money. City of Debtors is essential reading for anyone who would understand that world and its consequences, then and now.—Bruce H. Mann, author of Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence

It would be easy to get lost in the thicket of loopholes, appeals, FTC rules, ‘wage assignments,’ ‘waiver of defense clauses,’ and similar arcana, but Fleming is a surefooted guide. The reader comes out with a much deeper understanding of the shadowy, constantly changing landscape at the edges of standard finance and economic daily life.—Bethany Moreton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise