God and Risk: Religious Banking in Two Rural Dutch Communities in the Early 20th Century



This paper examines the origins and early development of rural cooperative microfinance banks that emerged at the turn of the twentieth century using a comparison of those that operated in two case study regions of the Netherlands: the Haaglanden in the west of the country and the Langstraat in the south. These two regions differed in many ways, including in soil type, agricultural specialisation, farm density and level of mechanisation. What makes these regions similar and therefore interesting to compare was their mixed religiosity: unusually for the Netherlands at the time, orthodox Calvinists, freethinking or liberal Protestants and Roman-Catholics inhabited both regions. The Dutch cooperative movement that started in earnest in the first decade of the twentieth century was highly religiously motivated and so these study regions enjoyed competing cooperative banks, each affiliated to another Christian denomination. Using original archival material gleaned from the modern decedents of these religious banks, this paper investigates in what ways religion mattered for their structure, conduct and performance. The specific question addressed is to what extent religious considerations took precedence over business realities, or what was the relationship between religiosity and risk. Was religion important, or was the success of cooperative banks determined solely by the economic fundamentals of the regions in which they operated?
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The Business History Seminar has been made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) and the Vereniging Trustfonds Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.
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Abe de Jong Ben Wubs
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