a1 The author is a doctoral student in the History Department of the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221.
The Bardi and Peruzzi of Florence became in the early fourteenth century the largest merchant-bankers ever seen in medieval Europe. Their collapse in the 1340s has been attributed by most historians to huge losses on loans to Edward III of England. This article explores some flaws in the conventional explanation and shows that the firms lacked the resources to have made loans on the generally accepted scale. It also suggests means by which the companies could have recovered at least part of their advances to the king without the results appearing in government ledgers.