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History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day by Glyn Davies

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This is a collection of essays written by Roy Davies (e-mail [email protected]) on various themes using information mainly from:

Davies, Glyn. A History of money from ancient times to the present day. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994. 696 pages.
ISBN 0 7083 1246 2
(hardback) reprinted November 1995.
ISBN 0 7083 1351 5 (paperback) rev. ed., 1996. 716 pages
The paperback version is just out - April.

Click on the picture for a larger image
of the cover of the book (47K),
showing various forms of money
used at various times in different places.

Comments from reviews via the University of Wales Press server.

Table of Contents of A History of Money
Pendulum Metatheory of Money
Keynesianism and monetarism have many precursors. Why does a monetary theory enjoy a vogue then give way to an opposing theory which in turn is displaced by a theory similar to its predecessor? There is a perpetual conflict between the interests of debtors, who seek to enlarge the quantity of money and creditors, who seek to maintain or increase the value of money by limiting its supply. Military expenditure and population pressures affect this conflict of interest. Furthermore money is fungible by nature and always attracts substitutes.
Origins of Money and of Banking
The use of money evolved out of deeply rooted customs as is shown by the study of primitive forms of money, e.g. cattle, cowrie shells, whales teeth and manillas (ornamental jewellery). The clumsiness of barter was merely one factor in the development of money, and not the most important one. Banking was invented before coins and reached a high level of sophistication in the Egypt of the Ptolomies. Military conquests, such as those of Alexander the Great, spread the use of coins which became the most convenient means of payment.
Warfare and Financial History
From blood money payments in primitive societies to the military-industrial complex of the present day developments in warfare and finance have, unfortunately, been closely connected. Even the word to pay comes from a Latin word meaning to pacify. This essay covers conflicts from the wars between Ancient Greece and Persia to World War II. Warfare played an important part in the spread of the use of coinage and the invention of the national debt, while the adoption of paper money in the West was both a cause of the American Revolution and a means of financing it.
The Significance of Celtic Coinage
The Celts on the Continent and in parts of Britain produced large numbers of coins before the Roman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon invasions put an end to minting in Britain almost completely for nearly two hundred years and in Wales production of coins did not become common until after the English conquest.
The Vikings and Money in England
Paying through the nose! The impact of Danegeld - history's best-known protection racket! In an age when a penny was a substantial sum of money literally millions of silver pennies were minted in England to buy off the Viking invaders. (This essay comes via the server of the Viking Network for Schools, which also carries an essay on Viking Coinage in Norway by Thor-Egil Paulsen).
Money in North American History
The British colonies in North America were chronically short of coins and were forced to use various substitutes including wampum, like the native inhabitants, and tobacco. The enthusiastic adoption of paper money and its suppression by the British was a factor in provoking the American revolution, which was financed by hyperinflation. Ever since independence banking has been the subject of political controversy and although the US emerged from the two World Wars as the dominant superpower the US financial system may be in relative decline.
Britain and European Monetary Union
Why is Britain sceptical? The pound Sterling has a very different history from continental currencies. Other European countries have more experience with currency unions, e.g. the Latin Monetary Union of 1861-1920, the Scandinavian Monetary Union which lasted until 1924, and the Zollverein of 1834 which led to political union between the German states. Furthermore the history of the pound sterling goes back 1,300 years whereas most European currencies date back only to the end of the Second World War since that conflict led to the destruction and reform of their previous currencies. Consequently a change of currency would arouse more suspicion in Britain than on the Continent.
Democracy and Government Control of the Money Supply
When coins were the predominant form of payment governments controlled minting. The development of modern banking and paper money broke the government monopoly of money creation and fostered the growth of democracy. Will the advent of electronic money have a similar significance?
Third World Money and Debt in the Twentieth Century
The pressure of a rapidly expanding world population on finite resources is a virtually silent explosion as far as monetarist literature is concerned. The task of enabling millions of the world's poorest men and women to earn a decent living for themselves is the greatest problem facing mankind. Reanchoring the runaway currencies of many Third World countries is a prerequisite for successful development.

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Roy Davies - Last updated 23 April 1996.
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