In this book, one of the most esteemed contemporary historians of the Middle Ages presents a concise examination of the problem that usury posed for the medieval Church, which had long denounced the lending of money for interest. Jacques Le Goff describes how, as the structure of economic life inevitably began to include financial loans, the Church refashioned its ideology in order to condemn the usurer not to hell but merely to purgatory. Le Goff is in the forefront of a history that studies “the deeply rooted and the slowly changing.” As one keenly aware of the inertia of older societies, he is all the more able to delineate for us the disruptive forces of change.
“Le Goff’s provocative essay … is much more than an explanation of Church views on usury; it aims at dissecting the nature of economic thought in an age that condemned a crucial [economic] function as immoral and unnatural. The exposition is evocative and fun to read…. It offers a guide to understanding how economics and social values interacted.” —Journal of Economic History