History of Money

from Ancient Times to the Present Day

by Glyn Davies


Monetary history in context from the dawn of civilization to the beginning of the twenty first century, based on the definitive book on the subject.
 
Brief biography of Glyn Davies See also money in fiction.

This site contains a chronology, by Glyn and Roy Davies and a collection of essays written by Roy Davies on various themes using information based on the book.

Cover of the book on monetary history by Glyn Davies.   Davies, Glyn. A History of money from ancient times to the present day, 3rd. ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002. 720p. 0-7083-1717-0 (paperback). - reprinted November 2005.

Published in co-operation with the Julian Hodge Bank Ltd.

Orders can be placed online with various suppliers. There are quotations from reviews on the University of Wales Press server.

Table of Contents of each chapter of the book.

Click on the picture for a larger image showing different forms of money used at various times in different places.
 

* A Comparative Chronology of Money
A detailed chronology of money in its social and political context from the very earliest times onwards. Around the next corner there may be lying in wait apparently quite novel monetary problems which in all probability bear a basic similarity to those that have already been tackled with varying degrees of success or failure in other times and places. The chronology is split into sections by period to provide faster access.
 
* Inflation and the 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 is also available on originally the Viking Network for Schools, for which it was originally written).
 
* 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.
 
* The Origins of the term Dollar and the Dollar Sign
The word "dollar" was used by Shakespeare and derives from "thaler" the name of a European coin. An outline of the convoluted history of central European thalers, Scandinavian dalers, the Spanish peso, the American dollar, and dollars used in Britain and the British Empire, and in China.
 
* 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. Re-anchoring the runaway inflation-ridden currencies of many Third World countries is a prerequisite for successful development.
* Monetary Innovation in Historical Perspective
Why Revolution always Boils Down to Evolution. A review of the major innovations, both in technology and in accounting, over the last three thousand years. This is the text of a keynote address given by Glyn Davies at a conference on e-money with the theme "Digital Money: New Era or Business as Usual?"

Search pages on money.

The directory name arian in this URL is the Welsh word for money. It also means silver, which was for many centuries the most common metal for making coins.


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Last updated 6 August 2011.
 
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