Recent scholarship about debt in early-modern Europe has replaced an old model of misery and exploitation with a new paradigm that emphasizes the entrepreneurial rationale for going into debt. Reassessment of these arguments on the basis of detailed information about 5,000 rural households in France finds that debt posed a high risk of ruin to nearly half of the region's debtors and that viticulture played a unique role in stimulating a borrowing frenzy in the countryside.

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