The History of Bankruptcy

The History of Bankruptcy

One in seventy homes in the US has filed for bankruptcy making it an extremely common topic of discussion for many Americans. But where did the concept of bankruptcy come from? The process may be different today than it was in the past, but, surprisingly, bankruptcy has existed in some form or another for thousands of years.

Ancient Greece

Bankruptcy as we know it today was not an option for people living in ancient Greece. If a debt that could not be paid was owed, it was not uncommon for the debtor to be a debt-slave for five years or more. Although protection from bodily harm and death was offered, debt was paid back in the form of difficult physical labor.

Old Testament

The Old Testament mentions debt forgiveness many times; debt was forgiven for members of the Jewish community every seven years and for community members and foreigners every forty-nine years.


In 1500s England, debt was considered a crime which was punishable by imprisonment and possibly even death. By the 1700s, people had it a little easier—debt could often be forgiven for a person who paid as much as he or she was able.

United States

In the 1930s the Supreme Court stated that the main goal of bankruptcy in the United States was to give those in debt a new start. Since then, a number of new acts have been passed and updated.

If you’re in need a fresh start and thinking of filing bankruptcy, speak with us and we can discuss your options.