The imperceptible financial (r)evolution of the censo

Abstract: Like other European polities during the medieval and early modern period, the Crown of Aragon experienced a financial revolution in the 14th century. The censo, a credit instrument recognised as non-usurious by suc-cessive popes, was one of the central elements of that revolution. In the following centuries, after the diffusion of this financial mechanism to other Hispanic kingdoms, the revolution became an evolution thanks to the flexibility that censos offered. The hypernymy of the term “censo” permitted to modify the clauses of the con-tract without losing its licit character and the recognition of the secular and ecclesiastical authorities. The characterisation of the censo as a revolution and evolution has been hindered by its features of polyonymy and polysemy; they made the (r)evolution imperceptible. Several examples demonstrate that the financial evolu-tion continued until the emergence of modern credit. Due to confusion and ambiguity, deliberated or unin-tended, the preindustrial and modern credit regimes overlapped. Thus, the sustained evolution of the censosand other similar formulae continued until the early decades of the 19th century.