University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 1.12.2017 M.A. Riina Turunen (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, History)

Start date: Dec 01, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 01, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, H320

Riina Turunen picture: Heikki Oksanen
M.A. Riina Turunen defends her doctoral dissertation in History ”Velka, vararikko ja tuomio. Konkurssi ja sen merkitykset 1800-luvun suomalaisissa kaupungeissa”. Opponent Adjunct Professor Antti Kuusterä (University of Helsinki) and custos Professor Jari Ojala (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


This dissertation makes use of legal documents and ancillary official sources revealing the life courses of individuals to explore the implications of bankruptcy and the meanings attached to it at a time when Finnish society industrialized and modernized. Three perspectives serve to support the analysis. At the heart of the study is the domestic economy. Thus the study is concerned with cases of bankruptcy ruin both during life and also after death. Secondly, bankruptcy is addressed as an indicator of economic dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit. Thirdly, attitudes to bankruptcy are approached from the perspective of legal and social forgiveness.

The era of industrialization gave rise to ever more cases of financial ruin during life. Yet, before that, it was characteristic that the estate of a deceased debtor was surrendered to the creditors. Thus bankruptcy as a whole was no rarity also in pre-industrial society. Before the age of liberalism in economic policy bankruptcies were not attributable to modern competition on the markets but rather the various risks in the operating environment. At the same time bankruptcy was a well-tolerated phenomenon in the urban community, the more so if the debtor acted in accordance with generally shared codes of honor and behavior, was a member of the upper-crust bourgeoisie and had at his disposal knowledge and skills which could be utilized in the local community. Rehabilitation was further supported by release from obligation to pay in the case of debts exceeding the monies of the bankrupt’s estate.

In the course of the century attitudes to indebtedness and bankruptcy stiffened. This was part of a wider way of looking, for example, at poverty, and the disseminating problem of short-term credit created by the financial revolution, which proliferated the problem of indebtedness more widely in society. Also with the removal of debt discharge debtors´ chances of starting again were depleted. Yet simultaneously the industrializing society created fields of operations and workplaces where insolvents, too, might find a new beginning.

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