Sources on Monetary History

Cover of the book on monetary history by Glyn Davies.

For a narrative account of monetary history since the dawn of civilisation onwards see A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day by Glyn Davies.

The web site based on the book includes an extensive annotated chronology as well as some essays by Roy Davies based on certain themes from the book.

See also
Money in fiction Financial Scandals


In addition to the links below there is quite a lot of information about money in some of the documents in the History of Economics collection assembled by Rod Hay at McMaster University in Canada.

There is also some historical information in some of the sources listed in Current Controversies Over Money and also in the web page of numismatics links.

Current Value of Old Money
How would you determine how much a certain sum of money at a particular period in history would be worth today? These printed and online sources for comparing prices and the cost of living over long time spans may be useful.
The British Museum Department of Coins and Medals
The coin collection covers the history of coinage from its origins to the present day, and the national collection of paper money, contained notes ranging from 14th century China to current issues from banks all over the world.
Casa de la Moneda Museum.
The website site of the museum that is part of the Fabrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre which is the organisation responsible for producing Spanish banknotes and stamps.
Central Bank of Brazil Museum of Money
The bank's website has a lot of information in English about the history of money in general and in Brazil in particular.
The Bank Negara Musuem
This website of the Central Bank of Malaysia has an informative account of the history of money in Malaysia together with photographs of various forms of currency.
Bank of Finland Museum
The Bank of Finland Museum was opened in August 2003. Its displays include the history of money in Finland and abroad as well as the role of the Bank of Finland in the European System of Central Banks.
The MoneyMuseum was created by the Sunflower Foundation. The foundation was established in 1999 by Dr. Jürg Conzett. Its aim is to expand the knowledge and the exchange of money, its history, significance and function and thus to promote the individual and social understanding of economic connections.
A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day
An online collection of essays, and a chronology, on themes from a book by Glyn Davies on the central importance of money in everyday activity, business, and political life in different countries from the dawn of civilization to the end of the 20th century.
Credit: 6,000 Years Old and Still Evolving Vigorously by Glyn Davies.
From Business Credit, June 1996, pages 16-19, the journal of the (US) National Association of Credit Management.
Das Papiergeld des Kurfürstentums Hessen: Methoden staatlicher Schuldenaufnahme im 19. Jahrhundert
Details of a new book, in German, by Andreas Kaiser on paper money in the context of 19th century constitutional history.
Global Financial Data
Historical information on prices, interest rates, stock markets etc.
Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank
A collection of databases, mainly on currency exchanges but also including one on grain prices.
A Global History of Currencies by Bryan Taylor
A brief overview of the changes in national currencies over time. Those of every country in the world are covered, including countries that no longer exist as independent states.
Biz/ed Monetary policy - History
A brief introduction to the history of monetary policy. It is one of a number of articles on economics at the Biz/ed website.
Museum of Money and Financial Institutions
A project to create an online museum. A significant part deals with historical topics.
Money as a social invention by Conrad Hopman
Hopman stresses the importance of social factors as opposed to purely economic ones (narrowly defined) in the invention of money. See also my essay on the origins of money and banking which also stresses social factors.
Shelling Out - The Origins of Money by Nick Szabo.
The precursors of money, along with language, enabled early modern humans to solve problems of cooperation that other animals cannot -- including problems of reciprocal altruism, kin altruism, and the mitigation of aggression. These precursors shared with non-fiat currencies very specific characteristics - they were not merely symbolic or decorative objects.
History of Law and Governance Resources
A page of links, complied by Nick Szabo to several historic documents dealing with financial matters.
The History of Money
An essay, accompanied by pictures of coins and notes, by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Central Bank History
Information from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
History of the Bureau of Engraving and Painting, U.S. Department of the Treasury
An annotated chronology of events in BEP History from the authorization of Demand Notes in 1861 to the installation of Large Examining Printing Equipment (LEPE) in 2010.
The History of Money new!
A series of short notes accompanied by links on the history of money, the role of money in the economy, the stock market and the future of money.
The Great Depression and the Stock Market Crash of 1929
An outline of the American experience of the economic crisis of the 1930s.
Financing Civilization
This is the first chapter of a book about the finance and its impact upon civilization by William N. Goetzmann, Director, International Center for Finance at the Yale School of Management.
Economics and Salt by David Bloch
This has information about the use of salt as money.
Professor John H. Munro's Home Page
Professor Munro, emeritus professor at the University of Toronto, provides a lot of information on topics in European economic history. The bibliographies he lists for the courses he teaches would also be useful for people wishing to delve deeper into those subjects.
Meir Kohn's Home Page
Meir Kohn is a professor of cconomics in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. His website includes many papers on economic history including several chapters from his book, The Origins of Western Economic Success: Commerce, Finance, and Government in Pre-Industrial Europe.
Michael Hudson - financial economist and historian
His website focuses on domestic and international finance, national income and balance-sheet accounting with regard to real estate, and the economic history of the ancient Near East.
The Early History of Financial Economics, 1478-1776
By Professor Geoffrey Poitras, Faculty of Business Administration in Simon Fraser University.
Bob Jensen's Threads on Accounting, Business, Economic, and Related History
An archive of messages on these subjects.
American Monetary Institute
Extended abstracts of papers that are mainly on historical subjects.
Bank of England History
Information from the history of the institution from the Bank's own website.
King Croesus' Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining
A review of a book which contains an explanation of the invention of coins in Lydia. The review was published in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.10.
Gold Standard
In the sixth century BC, King Croesus minted the first pure gold coins at a site in modern-day Turkey. The refinery was lost for 2500 years, until Cornell archaeologist Andrew Ramage noticed a suspicious hole in the ground. Cornell Magazine, vol. 103 no. 2, September/October 2000.
Money, Weights and Measures in Antiquity
covers Mesopotamia, Greece and the Roman Empire. Details of debasement of precious metal coinage are included.
RBS Heritage Hub
The central point for information and resources relating to the history of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
The Bank of England: Education and Museum
The Bank offers a wide range of resources and services to build awareness and understanding of its role and functions, and of central banking more generally.
A Short History of the Scottish Banking System
From the formation of Bank of Scotland in 1695 onwards.
Henry Duncan and the Ruthwell Savings Bank 1810-75
This bank, established by the local minister the Rev Henry Duncan (1774-1846) is generally regarded as the first savings bank in the world run on business principles. A museum commemorating the work of the bank is housed in a cottage beside the original bank.
La Banque de France
An outline of the bank's history from its creation by Napoleon onwards.
United States Continental Paper Currency
A guide from the Massachusetts Historical Society to the currency issued by the United States Continental Congress during the American Revolusion.
Federal Reserve History
The website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has a collection of documents on history of the US Federal Reserve System and its predecessors starting with the First Bank of the United States. The Banking Panic of 1907 which led to the creation of the FED, and a biography of Carter Glass, the man who shaped the Federal Reserve Act, are among other important topics covered.
The Destruction of the Second Bank of the United States
An article by Gareth Davis.
A History of the Canadian Dollar
An account of developments from from colonial times to the present day by James Powell, published by the Bank of Canada.
The Coinage of the Australian Colonies 1788-1909
When New South Wales was first settled in 1788 the British government made no provision for a monetary system.Salaries of government employees would be paid by the government bills and it was assumed that there would be no need for any other form of money. Therefore Australia's own monetary system was born of necessity.
Money: currency in New Zealand
Information from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand covering various topics, including the history of New Zealand coins and banknotes.
Of the Origin and Use of Money by Adam Smith.
Chapter IV of Book I of the Wealth of Nations.
Money and Trade Considered With a Proposal for Supplying the Nation with Money by John Law 1705.
The famous book advocating paper money by John Law who subsequently got the chance to put his ideas into effect in France - with disastrous results.
Short Observations on a Printed Paper, Entitled For encouraging the coining Silver Money in England, and after for keeping it here by John Locke.
History of Gold
This account concentrates on the history of its use as money.
Bimetallism and Monetary History
FX Micheloud's Monetary History site contains lots of information on how bimetallism worked, the collapse of the system, and arguments between proponents of bimetallism and supporters of the gold standard. The text of the famous Cross of Gold speech by William Jennings Bryan is given in full.
Resumption and the Double Standard
Or The Impossibility of Resuming Specie Payments in the United States without Restoring the Double Standard of Gold and Silver. A speech delivered in the Senate of the United States by John P. Jones, Senator from Nevada, April 24, 1876.
The Bubble Project
The site contains an account of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 and links to related topics.
A History of Central Banking in the United States by Edward Flaherty.
An essay on the development of central banking in the US from independence from Britain to the creation of the Federal Reserve. See also my essay on money in North American history which also has information on these topics.
The Leslie Brock Center for the Study of Colonial Currency
A major resource for all those interested in the history of currency in the North American colonies.
History of the United States Mint
The story of the mint from April 2, 1792, when Congress created authorized construction of a Mint building in the nation's capitol, Philadelphia. This was the first federal building erected under the Constitution.
A Brief History of the U.S. Cent
Produced by Americans for Common Cents. Their web site also has lots of other information about the usefulness of the penny and similar low-denomination coins in other countries.
A Brief History of US Paper Money
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Annual Report for 1995 included this short article about monetary history.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's American Currency Exhibit
This site contains images of currency and historical information.
Museum of American Finance
The main objectives of the Museum are to collect and preserve historical financial artifacts, and to research, organize, and display them in ways which bring the nation's financial history alive.
Dollars and Cents: Fundamental Facts about U.S. Money
Information about the design of US coins and banknotes from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency
The text of Benjamin Franklin's famous essay, published in 1729.
Women and Finance in the Early National U.S. by Robert E. Wright.
Women held loan and deposit accounts in many northeastern banks in the early national period. They also owned significant amounts of corporate stock and other financial securities.
The French franc
A history of the currency from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The History of the Franc
An outline history of the French franc from the Battle of Poitiers with additional information about the use of Francs in other countries. onwards.
A history of the Franc: the key moments
An article by Irène Delage.
A Survey of Singapore's Monetary History
A paper by the Financial and Special Studies Division, Economics Department,Monetary Authority of Singapore. The paper provides an overview of the evolution of Singapore's currency and monetary policy arrangements, against the backdrop of the history of the international monetary system.
Tales of a Thaler
An article about the use of the Maria Theresa thaler in the Middle East.
A Coin Called the Peso
A history of the Spanish and Mexican peso.
The Imaginary Peso: Imagistic Strategies of Nineteenth-Century Mexican Coins
A detailed account of the use of Mexican coins around the world.
The Royal Coin Cabinet
Sweden's National Museum of Monetary History.
The Coins and History of Asia
Photographs and information about coins from for students of Near Eastern, Persian, Indian, Central Asian and Chinese history from 600 BC to 1600 AD.
Reserve Bank of India Museum
This site covers the hi of Indian coinage, paper money, financial instruments, as well as a host of other related information, from the earliest times to the present.
Reserve Bank of India Museum
This site covers the hi of Indian coinage, paper money, financial instruments, as well as a host of other related information, from the earliest times to the present.
Keynes about Lindsay: India and the Gold Exchange Standard (1878-1914)
A paper by Mélaine Rueff at the 36th Annual Conference of the History of Economic Society, Denver, 2009.
Cowries and coins The dual monetary system of the Bengal Sultanate
A detailed abstract of a paper by John S. Deyell in Indian Economic and Social History Review. In the Bengal Sultanate, 1205–1576, a heavy, high purity silver coin met the needs of government and trade, while cowry shells met the needs of low-value transactions for most of the population.
Nupam's Web page for Indian Coins
Details of Indian coinage from the earliest times onwards.
The Vikings and Money
Essays from the Viking Network for Schools.
Building a National Currency - Japan 1868-1899 by Joseph E. Boling.
Center for Financial Institutions
More than 170 nations regulate their economies through central banks. NYU's Center for Financial Institutions was established to study their nature and operations. The center, which co-sponsors the annual Comfort Global Economic Policy Forum, includes perspectives drawn from law, economics, political science, history, and sociology.
European Association for Banking History
The European Association for Banking History was founded in 1990 as a forum for research into banking history. Its objective is to promote dialogue between European bankers, academics and archivists.
Today's Crisis Is More Dangerous Than 1930s
The text of a speech by Professor Wilhelm Hankel with the title "A New Bretton Woods: Milestones Along The Way To International Monetary Law" at a conference in Berlin, on November 5, 2001. It was translated from German and published in the November 16, 2001 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Banking Panics of the Gilded Age
A review of a book by Elmus Wicker on bank panics from 1863 to 1913. The review, by Frank Steindl, was published in Eh.Net, March 2001.
How Costly were the Banking Panics of the Gilded Age?
An article by Benjamin Chabot, Yale University and NBER, 2008. Chabot claims that his results suggest investors cared a great deal about banking panics and would have paid approximately 4-14% per year to insure against runs on NYCH banks.
Currency Boards and Dollarization
This site, maintained by Kurt Schuler, explains what currency boards are, gives quite a detailed account of their history, and also the history of dollarization. The site covers all parts of the world.
Deja V-uro by Sam Vaknin
The Euro feels like a novelty - but it is not. It was preceded by quite a few Monetary Unions in Europe and outside it.
Monetary union
An article about existing, proposed, and previous monetary unions from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Invention of the First Credit Card
The story of how In 1949, Frank X. McNamara got the idea in 1949.
The History of Credit and Debit
An outline by Steve Rhode.
Economic bubble
A Wikipedia article which covers an extensive list of speculative bubbles from Tulip Mania onwards.
The Great Depression
An article from the Wikipedia about the worldwide depression of the 1930s.
Timeline: Global Credit Crunch to downturn
A chronology from the BBC of the international credit crunch which started with problems in the subprime mortage market in the United States in 2007.
Financial Derivatives : Hedging Risk or Courting Disaster?
Information about the paradox that financial instruments designed to reduce risk have themselves become a source of risk. Contains some brief information about the history of derivatives, both options and futures.
History of Accounting
A narrative from ancient times onwards by John R. Alexander for the Association of Chartered Accountants in the US.
The Tax History Project
This was established by Tax Analysts to provide scholars, policymakers, students, the media, and citizens with information about the history of American taxation.
The Origins of Money by Carl Menger
The full text of the article published in the Economic Journal, volume 2,(1892) p. 239-55.
Isaac Newton - Representations on the Subject of Money
The full text of three documents written by Newton when he was the Master of the Royal Mint.
Works by Jeremy Bentham
Includes his Defence of Usury, 1787.
On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit: Vix Pervenit
Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on November 1, 1745.
Against Those Who Practice Usury by Gregory of Nyssa
The arguments against usury by one of the most influential 4th century theologians.

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Last updated 28 June 2015.
Roy Davies