14th and 15th centuries
The first major banks
In Europe, these are mainly the banks founded by the Medici family in Italy, Jacques Coeur in France and the Fugger family in the Holy Roman Empire. The development of banking activities in Europe had initially been hampered by the fact that interest-bearing loans were condemned by the Church. Interest-bearing loans had for a long time been a specialty of Jewish families, at the mercy of a repudiation of their debts by successive monarchs. During the 14th century, given the needs of trade, a number of merchant families, such as the Medici in Italy, the Fugger in the Holy Roman Empire and Jacques Coeur in France, started specialising in diversified and large-scale banking activities, in particular foreign exchange and discount transactions (repurchase of bills of exchange held by a merchant on one of his clients in exchange for a cash advance).