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The Borromei Bank Research


The help we have received spans the historic archives on Isola Bella, to colleagues within the School of History here at Queen Mary, and there are many people whom we have to thank for their support and encouragement over the last twenty years. 

Generous assistance from the Borromeo Arese family and Isola Bella friends

The ledgers of Filippo Borromei and Partners of Bruges and London are kept in the private archive of the Borromeo Arese family on Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, Piedmont, Italy (Archivio Borromeo Isola Bella). We are extremely grateful to the family, and especially to principessa Bona Borromeo Arese, for copyright permission to use material from the archive for research and publication and for allowing us to use the family coat of arms.  

The archivist at Isola Bella was then the late Carlo Alessandro Pisoni (d. 2021). His help in the early stages of the project was invaluable. More recently, we relied on help by the current archivists, Serena Sogno and Lorenza Barale.

Vital, integrated technology support

Transforming the two ledgers into electronic database versions could not have been accomplished without our long collaboration with Roundhouse Software Ltd of Tunbridge Wells and Winchester, and especially with its current Technical Director, Nigel Smith. The third member of the team since the project’s beginning, he developed both Roundhouse-Queen Mary Historic Accounts and Roundhouse-Queen Mary Historic Accounts Enquiry for us.  

We are indebted to the many members of Queen Mary Information Technology Services who have provided us with technical support, which also encompasses upgrading the database software and, for security reasons, moved it to a central server. They have also co-operated fully with Fresh Egg of Worthing, West Sussex, who have developed the new search tools for our new website. 

Generous financial support

Research projects cost money, and we are profoundly grateful to the following bodies, departments and organisations who provided support: 

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (Award Number R000239125) for its generous grant.   
  • The Westfield Trust  
  • The School of History at Queen Mary, to its successive Heads of Department and School, and to two former Vice Principals for the Humanities and Social Sciences — Professor Philip Ogden and the late Professor Trevor Dadson (d. 2020).  
  • The then- Corporate Affairs Office at Queen Mary.

The help we received covered a range of project developments from analytical software to a physical “home” in which to base ourselves — and much more.  

Our fellow historians

  • It would be a monumental task to thank individually all our fellow historians who have helped up over the last 20 years. Those whose names are not mentioned here can be sure that we know who they are and are grateful to them.   
  • The interest shown in the Project by Professors Richard Goldthwaite, Reinhold Mueller, Marco Spallanzani and the late Peter Spufford and by Professor Paul Brand encouraged us to persist with it.  
  • We are grateful for the helpful criticisms of papers we have given at postgraduate seminars and international conferences in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Warwick, Greenwich, Antwerp, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Paris, Helsinki, Toronto, Norton MA.  
  • Dr Martin Allen and his colleagues in the Coins and Medals Department at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge have answered many queries on European coinages with good humour.  
  • To help identify them, long lists of the names of account holders and others participating in the transactions of the Borromei Banks in both Bruges and London were circulated to Dr Linda Clark and Dr Hannes Kleineke of the History of Parliament Trust; Professor Matthew Davies, then Director of the Centre for Metropolitan Studies, Institute of Historical Research, University of London; the late Dr Anne Sutton, historian of the Mercers’ Company of London; Professor Caroline Barron of Royal Holloway, University of London and other members of the Medieval and Tudor London seminar at the Institute of Historical Research; Professor Dr Peter Stabel of the University of Antwerp; Professor Dr Kurt Weissen, formerly of the University of Basel and now of the University of Heidelberg; and Dr David Kusman of the Free University of Brussels.  
  • Other historians have come across references to the Borromei family and their banks during the course of their own research and have passed these on to us. This academic co-operation has been one of the most pleasant and rewarding parts of our long research programme. 
  • Finally, the long-suffering members of the Friday evening Late Medieval Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, our other friends and our families have had to endure the Borromei Banks for the last 20 years or more, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to them. The advice and help we have received has been extraordinary. The mistakes we have made are all our own. 

Professor Jim Bolton (School of History, Queen Mary University of London) 

Professor Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli (Dipartimento di Scienze per l’Economia e l’Impresa, Università degli Studi di Firenze, and School of History, Queen Mary University of London) 

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