An experiment in banking the poor: The Irish Mont-de-Piété, c. 1830-1850

Eoin McLaughlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Continental pawnbroking institutions, Monts-de-Piété, were introduced in Ireland in the 1830s and 1840s but did not establish a permanent status. Irish social reformers believed that a Mont-de-Piété system would reduce the cost of borrowing for the poor and also fund a social welfare network, thus negating the need for an Irish Poor Law. This article explores the introduction of the Mont-de-Piété charitable pawnbroker in Ireland and outlines some reasons for its failure. It uses the market incumbents, private pawnbrokers, as a base group in a comparative study and asks why the Monts-de-Piété were the unsuccessful ones of the two. The article finds that the public nature and monopoly status of Monts-de-Piété on the Continent realised economies of scale and gave preferential interest rates on capital, as well as enabling the Mont-de-Piété loan book to be cross-subsidised. These conditions were not replicated in Ireland, hence the failure of the Monts-de- Piété there.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalFinancial History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • I38
  • JEL classification L33
  • N14
  • N24

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Finance


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