In a recent NEP-HIS Blog post, Chris Colvin reviews a paper by Mohamed Saleh (Toulouse) which looks at the relationship between socioeconomic status and religion. One of the big debates in this literature is whether religion results in better socioeconomic status or whether socioeconomic status determines religiosity. Saleh's paper looks at the effect of a tax on non-Muslims in Egypt which was imposed from 640 until 1856. He finds that poor Copts converted to Islam to avoid the tax whereas wealthier Copts didn't. This may explain why non-Muslims are traditionally better off than the Muslim majority in Muslim countries today. Saleh's paper is available here.
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of