Tilburg University promotie PhD Defense

PhD Defense M. Lupi

Date: Time: 14:00 Location: Aula

Insolvent merchants and royal jurisdictions in Early Modern Lyon (1600-1660): the role of royal notaries and the Conservation des privilèges royaux des foires

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This research aimed to investigate the relevance of the role played by Lyon notaries in cases of merchant insolvency between 1600 and 1660 and the relationship they established with the Conservation des privilèges royaux des foires de Lyon, the court which originally regulated the fairs. To this end, it was necessary to analyze the context in which the notaries operated, namely Lyon, a city which was host to international trade fairs, before moving on to shed light on the dynamics of the relationships between the various jurisdictions involved in insolvency and bankruptcy procedures.

The Conservation des privilèges royaux des foires de Lyon was the court formally established in 1463 to deal with disputes arising in the context of Lyon's international fairs, including insolvency cases. However, case law preserved in the archival records analyzed in my research proves the notarial deed to be the predominant legal instrument in settling insolvency conflicts, showing a predilection amongst merchants for out-of-court solutions. Such agreements had the advantage of favoring the economic recovery of the insolvent, while at the same time mitigating the ravages that insolvencies inflicted on the whole market. Nevertheless, in order to be enforceable against third parties, this out-of-court solution required the subsequent approval (homologation) of the arrangement before the Conservation, meaning that the court also retained an essential role in the handling of insolvencies. Indeed, the Conservation’s archival records made it possible to estimate that the number of amicable settlements validated by this court was significantly higher than the sentences of liquidation of assets.

The interest of this research is to be found precisely in the relationship between the Conservation and the royal notaries and in the case law approach adopted in this regard by the Conservation. Rather than coming into conflict (as it happened with the Sénéchaussée, another royal court), the two jurisdictions succeeded in finding a balance in the performance of their respective functions, to the benefit of the merchants involved. Throughout the period under consideration, the homologation procedure was performed in the absence of a specific written rule on the matter since the Conservation's procedural rules (Stile) were not formalized until 1657. From that date on, the court would carry out its activity in line with the law, except for those cases where the homologation occurred contra legem (although the cases of this kind that I have found so far in the archives are rare). 

Moreover, the present investigation of the relationship between the court and the notaries spans a period in the history of Lyon that immediately precedes the era of the first major legal codifications, regarding which extensive literature already exists. By investigating the basic principles and procedural rules that were applied by the Conservation before 1657, this study aimed to shed light on a period marked by a lack of systematicity in the legislation in the field of insolvency. In this regard, case law proved particularly relevant as a source of information in this research, making it possible to also ascertain whether the rules later codified were already being applied.