Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 September 2019
The final section of the book turns to the debtor’s body. Experiences of insecurity were profoundly physical, borne out through the threat of confinement and the loss of liberty. Read through the lens of the prison, the life cycle of debt, from contracting credit, to insecurity, to default, was an embodied experience, and the ways in which debtors’ bodies were treated have important implications for the characterisation of economic culture during Britain’s transition to capitalism. Chapter 6 describes the body as a site for negotiated relations of power and obligation. By uncovering how creditors inflicted different forms of harm on debtors, from the denial of liberty to violent physical assault, it reveals the coercive nature of credit. Failure to abide by the rules of credit was dealt with by incarceration and physical punishment. In an era normally characterised by politeness and the decline of violence, the treatment of debtors instead reveals an economy tinged with aggression and even violence.