Professor Regina Grafe

Professor of Economic History (1928)

I am an economic and social historian of the Iberian world before 1820. My research engages with theoretical and methodological approaches in the history of capitalism and in global history, and focuses mostly on the comparative study of political, fiscal, commercial, and financial institutions. Before joining the Faculty, I was a professor at the postgraduate-only European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, after previous appointments at Carlos III, the LSE, Oxford, and Northwestern University.

My current project ‘And since men are mortal, but debt is eternal…’ studies the credit system in colonial Spanish America. My work traces the development of vibrant financial markets in places like Mexico City, Lima, and Buenos Aires, in which religious institutions often became sophisticated lenders. Instead of seeing the financial decision-making of actors such as cloistered nuns as part of an “archaic” lending structure, I argue that the cheap and ample credit they supplied to the private and public sectors contributed to a precocious financialization of colonial society. The existence of this radically different credit system challenges narratives that understood Europe (and later North America) as the sole origin of complex and well-functioning finance.

My MPhil paper Histories of Capitalism examines debates and methodologies in this field that have centred on the 16th to 19th centuries in a global perspective. 


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Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9EF, UK


Just published:

An Economic History of the Iberian Peninsula, 700–2000. Edited by Pedro Lains, Leonor Freire Costa, Regina Grafe, Alfonso Herranz-Loncán, David Igual-Luis, Vicente Pinilla, and Hermínia Vasconcelos Vilar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2024.