What was the “Brakteaten” medieval monetary system?

What was the “Brakteaten” medieval monetary system?

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I am reading "Interest and inflation free money" by Margrit Kennedy. I have only found this book online (here). It is not in my local libraries or bookshops. The author states (page 39 of pdf):

“Between the 12th and the 15th century in Europe a money system was used called "Brakteaten." Issued by the respective towns, bishops and sovereigns, it not only helped the exchange of goods and services but also provided the means of collecting taxes. Every year the thin coins made from gold and silver were "recalled," one to three times re-minted and devalued on an average about 25 % in the process.

Since nobody wanted to keep this money, people instead invested in furniture, solidly built houses, artwork and anything else that promised to keep or increase its value. During that time, some of the most beautiful sacred and profane works of art and architecture came into existence. "For while monied wealth could not accumulate, real wealth was created."

We still think of this time as one of the cultural culmination points in European history. Craftsmen worked a five-day week, the "blue" Monday was introduced and the standard of living was high. In addition, there were hardly any feuds and wars between the various realms of power. (27)

However, people obviously disliked the money which lost so much at regular intervals. Finally, towards the end of the 15th century, the "eternal" penny was introduced and with it came interest and accumulation of wealth in the hands of increasingly fewer people, as well as the accompanying social and economic problems. The lesson here is that taxes should be levied separately and not connected with the circulation fee on money."

I am looking to read more about such monetary system, but I can get no meaningful hits. The book seems to have a reference to this system (reference 27), but as I do not have the book I cannot check which is. Wikipedia has little mention on this monetary system, similar to what it is in the book. Google Scholar has no relevant result in English (mainly in German).

Are you aware of any study on this monetary system? Could I get some references on this?

It appears that the author, Margrit Kennedy, has either misunderstood or is deliberately misrepresenting the situation with Medieval bracteates.

Medieval bracteates (a form of pennies) are pieces of thin silver sheet embossed on one side. They typically have a diameter of between 22 and 45 mm. Because it is struck on only one side, the coin image appears in a high relief, while the obverse remains hollow.

From the middle of the 12th century to the 14th century, bracteates were the predominant regional coin type in almost the entire German-speaking area (with the exception of the Rhineland , Westphalia and the Middle Rhine area). From a currency perspective, bracteates are typical of the regional penny currencies of the time.

In some regions, it is true that bracteates were periodically devalued and had to be exchanged for new money. In Magdeburg this happened twice a year in the 12th century. When the devalued coins were exchanged, the rate was three new coins for four old coins.

The withheld 4th coin was called strike money, and this was often the only tax revenue of the minting authority (Renovatio Monetae). Obviously, the periodic devaluation caused huge disruption for businesses and traders. The city guilds began to issue a so-called "eternal penny" ("Ewiger Pfennig") from about the mid 13th century.

The rise of the Ewiger Pfennig marked the end of the bracteate period, although they remained in use as "pilgrim coins" until the 17th century.

There is a very useful study (in German) available to download as a pdf: Versuch über die Brakteaten, insbesondere über die Böhmischen

Brakeaten money was a form of seigneurage in the late Middle Ages. The term is German because it was practiced in most parts of Germany. What it means is that the sovereign, from time to time, issued new coins, forcing people to exchange their old metal coins for new ones, with the sovereign "taxing" this process by keeping say, one new coin out of four. What distinguished brakeaten money from other coins was a relatively simple design that made it possible to "recyle" them more frequently.

As onerous as it was, it was an "honest" form of taxation that was mildly deflationary (because it temporarily took money out of circulation). Wages stagnated as a result (in nominal terms), but peasants were relatively prosperous because (mild) deflation meant that their wages were rising slowly in real terms; deflation meant that their (same) money bought "more."

What changed the equation beginning with the end of the 15th century was the import of gold and silver from the New World. This initially affected Spain and Portugal but soon affected other parts of Europe. (For instance, the Holy Roman Empire was connected to Spain through King Charles V.) Now, governments could operate through deficit financing. That is, they would borrow money (when silver and gold supplies were relatively low) and pay later, when the supplies were higher, devaluing them in real terms, pocketing the difference. Lenders typically lost money on these transactions because the resulting inflation eroded the value of their loan repayments. (A similar thing happened to American bankers during the inflationary 1970s.)

Ordinary people lost out as a result. In Spain, during the 16th century for instance (the hardest hit area), their wages doubled in nominal terms (e.g. in gold coins), but prices went up four times, so their standard of living was cut in half over a century.

Source for New World: "Mexico" by Ralph Hancock

REFERENCE No. 27. Hans R. L. Cohrssen, "Fragile Money" v The New Outlook, sept. 1933, str. 40


Danish krone

The krone (Danish pronunciation: [ˈkʰʁoːnə] plural: kroner sign: kr. code: DKK) is the official currency of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, introduced on 1 January 1875. [3] Both the ISO code "DKK" and currency sign "kr." are in common use the former precedes the value, the latter in some contexts follows it. The currency is sometimes referred to as the Danish crown in English, since krone literally means crown. Historically, krone coins have been minted in Denmark since the 17th century.

  • Denmark
  • Greenland
  • Faroe Islands 1

One krone is subdivided into 100 øre (Danish pronunciation: [ˈøːɐ] singular and plural), the name øre is probably derived from the Roman word for gold. [4] Altogether there are eleven denominations of the krone, with the smallest being the 50 øre coin (one half of a krone). Formerly there were more øre coins, but those were discontinued due to inflation.

The krone is pegged to the euro via the ERM II, the European Union's exchange rate mechanism. Adoption of the euro is favoured by some of the major political parties however, a 2000 referendum on joining the Eurozone was defeated with 53.2% voting to maintain the krone and 46.8% voting to join the Eurozone. [5]


The Scandinavian region has a rich prehistory, having been populated by several prehistoric cultures and people for about 12,000 years, since the end of the last ice age. During the ice age, all of Scandinavia was covered by glaciers most of the time, except for the southwestern parts of what we now know as Denmark. When the ice began retreating, the barren tundras were soon inhabited by reindeer and elk, and Ahrenburg and Swiderian hunters from the south followed them here to hunt occasionally. The geography then was very different from what we know today. Sea levels were much lower the island of Great Britain was connected by a land bridge to mainland Europe and the large area between Great Britain and the Jutlandic peninsula – now beneath the North Sea and known as Doggerland – was inhabited by tribes of hunter-gatherers. As the climate warmed up, forceful rivers of meltwater started to flow and shape the virgin lands, and more stable flora and fauna gradually began emerging in Scandinavia, and Denmark in particular. The first human settlers to inhabit Denmark and Scandinavia permanently were the Maglemosian people, residing in seasonal camps and exploiting the land, sea, rivers and lakes. It was not until around 6,000 BC that the approximate geography of Denmark as we know it today had been shaped.

Denmark has some unique natural conditions for preservation of artifacts, providing a rich and diverse archeological record from which to understand the prehistoric cultures of this area.

Stone and Bronze Age Edit

The Weichsel glaciation covered all of Denmark most of the time, except the western coasts of Jutland. It ended around 13,000 years ago, allowing humans to move back into the previously ice-covered territories and establish permanent habitation. During the first post-glacial millennia, the landscape gradually changed from tundra to light forest, and varied fauna including now-extinct megafauna appeared. Early prehistoric cultures uncovered in modern Denmark include the Maglemosian Culture (9,500–6,000 BC) the Kongemose culture (6,000–5,200 BC), the Ertebølle culture (5,300–3,950 BC), and the Funnelbeaker culture (4,100–2,800 BC).

The first inhabitants of this early post-glacial landscape in the so-called Boreal period, were very small and scattered populations living from hunting of reindeer and other land mammals and gathering whatever fruits the climate was able to offer. Around 8,300 BC the temperature rose drastically, now with summer temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit), and the landscape changed into dense forests of aspen, birch and pine and the reindeer moved north, while aurochs and elk arrived from the south. The Koelbjerg Man is the oldest known bog body in the world and also the oldest set of human bones found in Denmark, [3] dated to the time of the Maglemosian culture around 8,000 BC. [4] [5] With a continuing rise in temperature the oak, elm and hazel arrived in Denmark around 7,000 BC. Now boar, red deer, and roe deer also began to abound. [6]

A burial from Bøgebakken at Vedbæk dates to c. 6,000 BC and contains 22 persons – including four newborns and one toddler. Eight of the 22 had died before reaching 20 years of age – testifying to the hardness of hunter-gatherer life in the cold north. [7] Based on estimates of the amount of game animals, scholars estimate the population of Denmark to have been between 3,300 and 8,000 persons in the time around 7,000 BC. [8] It is believed that the early hunter-gatherers lived nomadically, exploiting different environments at different times of the year, gradually shifting to the use of semi permanent base camps. [9]

With the rising temperatures, sea levels also rose, and during the Atlantic period, Denmark evolved from a contiguous landmass around 11,000 BC to a series of islands by 4,500 BC. The inhabitants then shifted to a seafood based diet, which allowed the population to increase.

Agricultural settlers made inroads around 3,000 BC. Many dolmens and rock tombs (especially passage graves) date from this period. The Nordic Bronze Age period in Denmark, from about 1,500 BC, featured a culture that buried its dead, with their worldly goods, beneath burial mounds. The many finds of gold and bronze from this era include beautiful religious artifacts and musical instruments, and provide the earliest evidence of social classes and stratification.

Iron Age Edit

During the Pre-Roman Iron Age (from the 4th to the 1st century BC), the climate in Denmark and southern Scandinavia became cooler and wetter, limiting agriculture and setting the stage for local groups to migrate southward into Germania. At around this time people began to extract iron from the ore in peat bogs. Evidence of strong Celtic cultural influence dates from this period in Denmark, and in much of northwest Europe, and survives in some of the older place names.

From the first to the fifth century, the Roman Empire interacted with Jutland and the Danish isles in many ways, ranging from commerce to a possible "client state" relationship. [10] This period is therefore referred to as the Roman Iron Age.

The Roman provinces, whose frontiers stopped short of Denmark, nevertheless maintained trade routes and relations with Danish or proto-Danish peoples, as attested by finds of Roman coins. The earliest known runic inscriptions date back to c. 200 AD. Depletion of cultivated land in the last century BC seems to have contributed to increasing migrations in northern Europe and increasing conflict between Teutonic tribes and Roman settlements in Gaul. Roman artifacts are especially common in finds from the 1st century. It seems clear that some part of the Danish warrior aristocracy served in the Roman army. [11]

Occasionally during this time, both animal and human sacrifice occurred and bodies were immersed in bogs. In recent times [update] some of these bog bodies have emerged very well-preserved, providing valuable information about the religion and people who lived in Denmark during this period. Some of the most well-preserved bog bodies from the Nordic Iron Age are the Tollund Man and the Grauballe Man.

From around the 5th to the 7th century, Northern Europe experienced mass migrations. This period and its material culture are referred to as the Germanic Iron Age.

The face of Tollundmanden, one of the best preserved bog body finds.

The Dejbjerg wagon from the Pre-Roman Iron Age, thought to be a ceremonial wagon.

The Nydam oak boat, a ship burial from the Roman Iron Age. At Gottorp Castle, Schleswig, now in Germany.

Copies of the Golden Horns of Gallehus from the Germanic Iron Age, thought to be ceremonial horns but of a raid purpose.

Earliest literary sources Edit

In his description of Scandza (from the 6th-century work, Getica), the ancient writer Jordanes says that the Dani were of the same stock as the Suetidi (Swedes, Suithiod?) and expelled the Heruli and took their lands. [12]

The Old English poems Widsith and Beowulf, as well as works by later Scandinavian writers — notably by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) — provide some of the earliest references to Danes.

Viking Age Edit

With the beginning of the Viking Age in the 9th century, the prehistoric period in Denmark ends. The Danish people were among those known as Vikings, during the 8th–11th centuries. Viking explorers first discovered and settled in Iceland in the 9th century, on their way from the Faroe Islands. From there, Greenland and Vinland (probably Newfoundland) were also settled. Utilizing their great skills in shipbuilding and navigation they raided and conquered parts of France and the British Isles.

They also excelled in trading along the coasts and rivers of Europe, running trade routes from Greenland in the north to Constantinople in the south via Russian and Ukrainian rivers, most notably along the River Dnieper and via Kiev, then being the capital of Kiev Rus. The Danish Vikings were most active in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy where they raided, conquered and settled (their earliest settlements included sites in the Danelaw, Ireland and Normandy). The Danelaw encompassed the Northeastern half of what now constitutes England, where Danes settled and Danish law and rule prevailed. Prior to this time, England consisted of approximately seven independent Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The Danes conquered (terminated) all of these except for the kingdom of Wessex. Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, emerged from these trials as the sole remaining English king, and thereby as the first English Monarch.

In the early 9th century, Charlemagne's Christian empire had expanded to the southern border of the Danes, and Frankish sources (e.g. Notker of St Gall) provide the earliest historical evidence of the Danes. These report a King Gudfred, who appeared in present-day Holstein with a navy in 804 where diplomacy took place with the Franks In 808, King Gudfred attacked the Obotrites and conquered the city of Reric whose population was displaced or abducted to Hedeby. In 809, King Godfred and emissaries of Charlemagne failed to negotiate peace, despite the sister of Godfred being a concubine of Charlemagne, and the next year King Godfred attacked the Frisians with 200 ships.

Viking raids along the coast of France and the Netherlands were large-scale. Paris was besieged and the Loire Valley devastated during the 10th century. One group of Danes was granted permission to settle in northwestern France under the condition that they defend the place from future attacks. As a result, the region became known as "Normandy" and it was the descendants of these settlers who conquered England in 1066.

In addition, a few Danes are believed to have participated with the Norwegians who moved west into the Atlantic Ocean, settling in the Shetland Isles, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. The Greenland Norse persisted from about 1000 AD to about 1450 AD. Seasonal trading camps have been recently discovered on Baffin Island containing European cordage, metal traces, masonry, and rat remains. Brief Viking expeditions to North America around 1000 did not result in any lasting settlements. Other Viking raids into Germany and the Mediterranean were short-lived and had no lasting effect.

The oldest parts of the defensive works of Danevirke near Hedeby at least date from the summer of 755 and were expanded with large works in the 10th century. The size and number of troops needed to man it indicates a quite powerful ruler in the area, which might be consistent with the kings of the Frankish sources. In 815 AD, Emperor Louis the Pious attacked Jutland apparently in support of a contender to the throne, perhaps Harald Klak, but was turned back by the sons of Godfred, who most likely were the sons of the above-mentioned Godfred. At the same time St. Ansgar travelled to Hedeby and started the Catholic Christianisation of Scandinavia.

Gorm the Old (Danish: Gorm den Gamle, Old Norse: Gormr gamli, Latin: Gormus Senex [13] [14] ), also called Gorm the Languid (Danish: Gorm Løge, Gorm den Dvaske), was the first historically recognized ruler of Denmark, reigning from c. 936 to his death c. 958 . [15] He ruled from Jelling, and made the oldest of the Jelling Stones in honour of his wife Thyra. Gorm was born before 900 and died c. 958 . His rule marks the start of the Danish monarchy and royal house (see Danish monarchs' family tree). [15]

The Danes were united and officially Christianized in 965 AD by Gorm's son Harald Bluetooth (see below), the story of which is recorded on the Jelling stones. The extent of Harald's Danish Kingdom is unknown, although it is reasonable to believe that it stretched from the defensive line of Dannevirke, including the Viking city of Hedeby, across Jutland, the Danish isles and into southern present day Sweden Scania and perhaps Halland and Blekinge. Furthermore, the Jelling stones attest that Harald had also "won" Norway. [16]

In retaliation for the St. Brice's Day massacre of Danes in England, the son of Harald, Sweyn Forkbeard mounted a series of wars of conquest against England. By 1014, England had completely submitted to the Danes. However, distance and a lack of common interests prevented a lasting union, and Harald's son Cnut the Great barely maintained the link between the two countries, which completely broke up during the reign of his son Hardecanute. A final attempt by the Norwegians under Harald Hardrada to reconquer England failed, but did pave the way for William the Conqueror's takeover in 1066. [16]

Christianity, expansion and the establishment of the Kingdom of Denmark Edit

The history of Christianity in Denmark overlaps with that of the Viking Age. Various petty kingdoms existed throughout the area now known as Denmark for many years. Between c. 960 and the early 980s, Harald Bluetooth appears to have established a kingdom in the lands of the Danes which stretched from Jutland to Skåne. Around the same time, he received a visit from a German missionary who, according to legend, [17] survived an ordeal by fire, which convinced Harald to convert to Christianity.

The new religion, which replaced the old Norse religious practices, had many advantages for the king. Christianity brought with it some support from the Holy Roman Empire. It also allowed the king to dismiss many of his opponents who adhered to the old mythology. At this early stage there is no evidence that the Danish Church was able to create a stable administration that Harald could use to exercise more effective control over his kingdom, but it may have contributed to the development of a centralising political and religious ideology among the social elite which sustained and enhanced an increasingly powerful kingship.

England broke away from Danish control in 1035 and Denmark fell into disarray for some time. Sweyn Estridsen's son, Canute IV, raided England for the last time in 1085. He planned another invasion to take the throne of England from an aging William I. He called up a fleet of 1,000 Danish ships, 60 Norwegian long boats, with plans to meet with another 600 ships under Duke Robert of Flanders in the summer of 1086. Canute, however, was beginning to realise that the imposition of the tithe on Danish peasants and nobles to fund the expansion of monasteries and churches and a new head tax (Danish:nefgjald) had brought his people to the verge of rebellion. Canute took weeks to arrive where the fleet had assembled at Struer, but he found only the Norwegians still there.

Canute thanked the Norwegians for their patience and then went from assembly to assembly (Danish:landsting) outlawing any sailor, captain or soldier who refused to pay a fine which amounted to more than a years harvest for most farmers. Canute and his housecarls fled south with a growing army of rebels on his heels. Canute fled to the royal property outside the town of Odense on Funen with his two brothers. After several attempts to break in and then bloody hand-to-hand fighting in the church, Benedict was cut down, and Canute was struck in the head by a large stone and then speared from the front. He died at the base of the main altar on 10 July 1086, where he was buried by the Benedictines. When Queen Edele came to take Canute's body to Flanders, a light allegedly shone around the church and it was taken as a sign that Canute should remain where he was. [ citation needed ]

The death of St. Canute marks the end of the Viking Age. Never again would massive flotillas of Scandinavians meet each year to ravage the rest of Christian Europe.

Canute's nephew Sweyn Estridson (1020–74) re-established strong royal Danish authority and built a good relationship with Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen — at that time the Archbishop of all of Scandinavia.

In the early 12th century, Denmark became the seat of an independent church province of Scandinavia. Not long after that, Sweden and Norway established their own archbishoprics, free of Danish control. The mid-12th century proved a difficult time for the kingdom of Denmark. Violent civil wars rocked the land. Eventually, Valdemar the Great (1131–82), gained control of the kingdom, stabilizing it and reorganizing the administration. King Valdemar and Absalon (ca 1128–1201), the bishop of Roskilde, rebuilt the country.

During Valdemar's reign construction began of a castle in the village of Havn, leading eventually to the foundation of Copenhagen, the modern capital of Denmark. Valdemar and Absalon built Denmark into a major power in the Baltic Sea, a power which later competed with the Hanseatic League, the counts of Holstein, and the Teutonic Knights for trade, territory, and influence throughout the Baltic. In 1168, Valdemar and Absalon gained a foothold on the southern shore of the Baltic, when they subdued the Principality of Rügen.

In the 1180s, Mecklenburg and the Duchy of Pomerania came under Danish control, too. In the new southern provinces, the Danes promoted Christianity (mission of the Rani, monasteries like Eldena Abbey) and settlement (Danish participation in the Ostsiedlung). The Danes lost most of their southern gains after the Battle of Bornhöved (1227), but the Rugian principality stayed with Denmark until 1325.

In 1202, Valdemar II became king and launched various "crusades" to claim territories, notably modern Estonia. Once these efforts were successful, a period in history known as the Danish Estonia began. Legend has it that the Danish flag, the Dannebrog fell from the sky during the Battle of Lindanise in Estonia in 1219. A series of Danish defeats culminating in the Battle of Bornhöved on 22 July 1227 cemented the loss of Denmark's north German territories. Valdemar himself was saved only by the courageous actions of a German knight who carried Valdemar to safety on his horse.

From that time on, Valdemar focused his efforts on domestic affairs. One of the changes he instituted was the feudal system where he gave properties to men with the understanding that they owed him service. This increased the power of the noble families (Danish: højadelen) and gave rise to the lesser nobles (Danish: lavadelen) who controlled most of Denmark. Free peasants lost the traditional rights and privileges they had enjoyed since Viking times.[3]

The king of Denmark had difficulty maintaining control of the kingdom in the face of opposition from the nobility and from the Church. An extended period of strained relations between the crown and the Popes of Rome took place, known as the "archiepiscopal conflicts".

By the late 13th century, royal power had waned, and the nobility forced the king to grant a charter, considered Denmark's first constitution. Following the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227, a weakened Denmark provided windows of opportunity to both the Hanseatic League and the Counts of Holstein. The Holstein Counts gained control of large portions of Denmark because the king would grant them fiefs in exchange for money to finance royal operations.

Valdemar spent the remainder of his life putting together a code of laws for Jutland, Zealand and Skåne. These codes were used as Denmark's legal code until 1683. This was a significant change from the local law making at the regional assemblies (Danish: landting), which had been the long-standing tradition. Several methods of determining guilt or innocence were outlawed including trial by ordeal and trial by combat. The Code of Jutland (Danish: Jyske Lov) was approved at meeting of the nobility at Vordingborg in 1241 just prior to Valdemar's death. Because of his position as "the king of Dannebrog" and as a legislator, Valdemar enjoys a central position in Danish history. To posterity the civil wars and dissolution that followed his death made him appear to be the last king of a golden age.

The Middle Ages saw a period of close cooperation between the Crown and the Roman Catholic Church. Thousands of church buildings sprang up throughout the country during this time. The economy expanded during the 12th century, based mostly on the lucrative herring-trade, but the 13th century turned into a period of difficulty and saw the temporary collapse of royal authority.

Count rule Edit

During the disastrous reign of Christopher II (1319–1332), most of the country was seized by the provincial counts (except Skåne, which was taken over by Sweden) after numerous peasant revolts and conflicts with the Church. For eight years after Christopher's death, Denmark had no king, and was instead controlled by the counts. After one of them, Gerhard III of Holstein-Rendsburg, was assassinated in 1340, Christopher's son Valdemar was chosen as king, and gradually began to recover the territories, which was finally completed in 1360.

The Black Death, which came to Denmark during these years, also aided Valdemar's campaign. His continued efforts to expand the kingdom after 1360 brought him into open conflict with the Hanseatic League. He conquered Gotland, much to the displeasure of the League, which lost Visby, an important trading town located there.

The Hanseatic alliance with Sweden to attack Denmark initially proved a fiasco since Danish forces captured a large Hanseatic fleet, and ransomed it back for an enormous sum. Luckily for the League, the Jutland nobles revolted against the heavy taxes levied to fight the expansionist war in the Baltic the two forces worked against the king, forcing him into exile in 1370. For several years, the Hanseatic League controlled the fortresses on "the sound" between Skåne and Zealand.

Margaret and the Kalmar Union (1397–1523) Edit

Margaret I, the daughter of Valdemar Atterdag, found herself married off to Håkon VI of Norway in an attempt to join the two kingdoms, along with Sweden, since Håkon had kinship ties to the Swedish royal family. The dynastic plans called for her son, Olaf II to rule the three kingdoms, but after his early death in 1387 she took on the role herself (1387–1412). During her lifetime (1353–1412) the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (including the Faroe Islands, as well as Iceland, Greenland, and present-day Finland) became linked under her capable rule, in what became known as the Kalmar Union, made official in 1397.

Her successor, Eric of Pomerania (King of Denmark from 1412 to 1439), lacked Margaret's skill and thus directly caused the breakup of the Kalmar Union. Eric's foreign policy engulfed Denmark in a succession of wars with the Holstein counts and the city of Lübeck. When the Hanseatic League imposed a trade embargo on Scandinavia, the Swedes (who saw their mining industry adversely affected) rose up in revolt. The three countries of the Kalmar Union all declared Eric deposed in 1439.

However, support for the idea of regionalism continued, so when Eric's nephew Christopher of Bavaria came to the throne in 1440, he managed to get himself elected in all three kingdoms, briefly reuniting Scandinavia (1442–1448). The Swedish nobility grew increasingly unhappy with Danish rule and the union soon became merely a legal concept with little practical application. During the subsequent reigns of Christian I (1450–1481) and Hans (1481–1513), tensions grew, and several wars between Sweden and Denmark erupted.

In the early 16th century, Christian II (reigned 1513–1523) came to power. He allegedly declared, "If the hat on my head knew what I was thinking, I would pull it off and throw it away." This quotation apparently refers to his devious and machiavellian political dealings. He conquered Sweden in an attempt to reinforce the union, and had about 100 leaders of the Swedish anti-unionist forces killed in what came to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath of November 1520. The bloodbath destroyed any lingering hope of Scandinavian union.

In the aftermath of Sweden's definitive secession from the Kalmar Union in 1521, civil war and the Protestant Reformation followed in Denmark and Norway. When things settled down, the Privy Council of Denmark had lost some of its influence, and that of Norway no longer existed. The two kingdoms, known as Denmark–Norway, operated in a personal union under a single monarch. Norway kept its separate laws and some institutions, such as a royal chancellor, separate coinage and a separate army. As a hereditary kingdom, Norway's status as separate from Denmark remained important to the royal dynasty in its struggles to win elections as kings of Denmark. The two kingdoms remained tied until 1814.

The Reformation Edit

The Reformation, which originated in the German lands in the early 16th century from the ideas of Martin Luther (1483–1546), had a considerable impact on Denmark. The Danish Reformation started in the mid-1520s. Some Danes wanted access to the Bible in their own language. In 1524 Hans Mikkelsen and Christiern Pedersen translated the New Testament into Danish it became an instant best-seller. [18]

Those who had traveled to Wittenberg in Saxony and come under the influence of the teachings of Luther and his associates included Hans Tausen, a Danish monk in the Order of St John Hospitallers. On Good Friday in 1525, Tausen used the pulpit at Antvorskov Abbey Church to proclaim Luther's reforms. His scandalized superiors ordered him out of Zealand and held him in the priory at Viborg under close confinement until he should come to his senses. [18]

Townspeople came to see the troublesome monk, and Tausen preached to them from the window of his cell. Within days Tausen's ideas swept through the town. The then radical ideas of Luther found a receptive audience. Tausen's preaching converted ordinary people, merchants, nobles, and monks and even the Prior grew to appreciate Tausen and ordered his release. Tausen preached openly: much to the consternation of Bishop Jøn Friis, who lost his ability to do anything about the Lutherans and retreated to Hald Castle. [18]

After preaching in the open air, Tausen gained the use of a small chapel, which soon proved too small for the crowds who attended services in Danish. His followers broke open a Franciscan Abbey so they could listen to Tausen, who packed the church daily for services. The town leaders protected Tausen from the Bishop of Viborg. [18] Viborg became the center for the Danish Reformation for a time. Lutheranism spread quickly to Aarhus and Aalborg.

Within months King Frederick appointed Tausen as one of his personal chaplains (October 1526) in order to protect him from Catholics. Tausen's version of Luther's ideas spread throughout Denmark. Copenhagen became a hotbed of reformist activity and Tausen moved there to continue his work. His reputation preceded him and the excitement of hearing the liturgy in Danish brought thousands of people out to hear him. With the kings' permission, churches in Copenhagen opened their doors to the Lutherans and held services for Catholics and for Lutherans at different times of the day.

At Our Lady Church, the main church of Copenhagen, Bishop Ronnow refused to admit the "heretics". In December 1531, a mob stormed the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, encouraged by Copenhagen's fiery mayor, Ambrosius Bogbinder. They tore down statues and side-altars and destroyed artwork and reliquaries. Frederick I's policy of toleration insisted that the two competing groups share churches and pulpits peacefully, but this satisfied neither Lutherans nor Catholics.

Luther's ideas spread rapidly as a consequence of a powerful combination of popular enthusiasm for church reform and a royal eagerness to secure greater wealth through the seizure of church lands and property. In Denmark the reformation increased the crown's revenues by 300%.

Dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church Edit

Dissatisfaction with the established Catholic Church had already been widespread in Denmark. Many people viewed the tithes and fees — a constant source of irritation for farmers and merchants — as unjust. This became apparent once word got out that King Frederick and his son, Duke Christian had no sympathy with Franciscans who persistently made the rounds of the parishes to collect food, money, and clothing in addition to the tithes. Between 1527 and 1536 many towns petitioned the king to close the Franciscan houses. [19]

Frederick obliged by sending letters authorizing the closure of the monasteries, often offering a small sum of money to help the brothers on their way. With the royal letter in hand, mobs forcibly closed Franciscan abbeys all over Denmark. They beat up monks, two of whom died. [19] The closure of Franciscan houses occurred systematically in Copenhagen, Viborg, Aalborg, Randers, Malmö and ten other cities in all, 28 monasteries or houses closed. People literally hounded Franciscan monks out of the towns. [19]

No other order faced such harsh treatment. Considering how strongly many people felt about removing all traces of Catholic traditions from Danish churches, surprisingly little violence took place. Luther's teaching had become so overwhelmingly popular that Danes systematically cleared churches of statues, paintings, wall-hangings, reliquaries and other Catholic elements without interference. The only exceptions came in individual churches where the local churchmen refused to permit reform.

Frederick I died in 1533 the Viborg Assembly (Danish:landsting) proclaimed his son, Duke Christian of Schleswig, King Christian III. The State Council (Danish: Rigsråd) on Zealand, led by the Catholic bishops, took control of the country and refused to recognize the election of Christian III, a staunch Lutheran. The regents feared Christian's zeal for Luther's ideas would tip the balance and disenfranchise Catholics — both peasants and nobles.

The State Council encouraged Count Christopher of Oldenburg to become Regent of Denmark. Christian III quickly raised an army to enforce his election, including mercenary troops from Germany. Count Christopher raised an army (including troops from Mecklenburg and Oldenburg and the Hanseatic League, especially Lübeck) to restore his Catholic uncle King Christian II (deposed in 1523). This resulted in a three-year civil war called the Count's Feud (Danish: Grevens Fejde).

Count's Feud (1534–1536) Edit

Armed rebellion by Catholic peasants led by Skipper Clement started in northern Jutland. Rebellion swept across Funen, Zealand and Skåne. Christian III's army soundly defeated an army of Catholic nobles at Svenstrup on 16 October 1534. Christian forced a truce with the Hanseatic League, which had sent troops to help Count Christopher. Christian III's army, under Johan Rantzau, chased the rebels all the way back to Aalborg and then massacred over 2,000 of them inside the city in December 1534.

The Protestants captured Skipper Clement (1534), and later executed him in 1536. Christian III's mercenary troops put an end to Catholic hopes on Zealand and then Funen. Skåne rebels went as far as proclaiming Christian II king again. King Gustav Vasa of Sweden sent two separate armies to ravage Halland and Skåne into submission. Besiegers finally starved the last hold-outs in the rebellion, Copenhagen and Malmø, into surrender in July 1536. By the spring of 1536, Christian III had taken firm control.

State Lutheranism Edit

Denmark became officially Lutheran on 30 October 1536 by decree of King Christian III, and in 1537 the reconstituted State Council approved the Lutheran Ordinances which was worked out by Danish theologians and Johannes Bugenhagen, based on the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Little Catechism. The government established the Danish National Church (Danish: Folkekirken) as the state church. All of Denmark's Catholic bishops went to prison until such time as they converted to Luther's reform. The authorities released them when they promised to marry and to support the reforms.

If they agreed, they received property and spent the rest of their lives as wealthy landowners. If they refused conversion, they died in prison. The State confiscated Church lands to pay for the armies that had enforced Christian III's election. Priests swore allegiance to Lutheranism or found new employment. The new owners turned monks out of their monasteries and abbeys. Nuns in a few places gained permission to live out their lives in nunneries, though without governmental financial support. The Crown closed churches, abbeys, priories and cathedrals, giving their property to local nobles or selling it.

The King appointed Danish superintendents (later bishops) to oversee Lutheran orthodoxy in the church. Denmark became part of a Lutheran heartland extending through Scandinavia and northern Germany. The Catholic Church everywhere in Scandinavia had sealed its fate by supporting hopeless causes: Christian II and the emperor Charles V in Denmark, Norwegian independence in that country, and in Sweden the Kalmar Union. Geographical distance also prevented them from receiving anything more than a sympathetic ear from Rome.

The 17th century saw a period of strict Lutheran orthodoxy in Denmark, with harsh punishments visited on suspected followers of either Calvinism or Huldrych Zwingli. Lutheran authorities treated Catholics harshly — in the fear that they might undermine the king, government, and national church. In a delayed result of the Reformation, Denmark became embroiled in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) on the Protestant side.

The loss of Eastern Denmark Edit

The Dano-Norwegian Kingdom grew wealthy during the 16th century, largely because of the increased traffic through the Øresund, which Danes could tax because Denmark controlled both sides of the Sound. The trade in grain exports from Poland to the Netherlands and to the rest of Europe grew enormously at this time, and the Danish kings did not hesitate to cash in on it. The Sound duty was only repealed in the 1840s.

The Danish economy benefited from the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) in the Netherlands because a large number of skilled refugees from that area (the most economically advanced in Europe) came to Denmark. This helped to modernize many aspects of society and to establish trading links between Denmark and the Netherlands.

Denmark–Norway had a reputation as a relatively powerful kingdom at this time. European politics of the 16th century revolved largely around the struggle between Catholic and Protestant forces, so it seemed almost inevitable that Denmark, a strong, unified Lutheran kingdom, would get drawn into the larger war when it came. The Thirty Years' War went badly for the Protestant states in the early 1620s, and a call went out to Denmark–Norway to "save the Protestant cause".

King Christian IV, who was also a duke of the Holy Roman Empire on the basis of his possessions in Holstein, decided to intervene in the conflict raging in northern Germany. The campaign ended in defeat, and Jutland was occupied by the imperial army of Albrecht von Wallenstein. In the Treaty of Lübeck, Christian made peace and agreed to not intervene in Germany again. The war in Germany had been very expensive and Christian IV saw no other recourse than to raise the Sound tolls. Unfortunately, this act pushed the Netherlands away from Denmark and into the arms of Sweden.

Torstenson War (1643–1645) Edit

In 1643, Sweden's armies, under the command of Lennart Torstensson, suddenly invaded Denmark without declaring war. The ensuing conflict became known as the Torstenson War. The Netherlands, wishing to end the Danish stranglehold on the Baltic, joined the Swedes in their war against Denmark–Norway. In October 1644, a combined Dutch-Swedish fleet destroyed 80 percent of the Danish fleet in the Battle of Femern. The result of this defeat proved disastrous for Denmark–Norway: in the Second treaty of Brömsebro (1645) Denmark ceded to Sweden the Norwegian provinces Jemtland, Herjedalen and Älvdalen as well as the Danish islands of Gotland and Øsel. Halland went to Sweden for a period of 30 years and the Netherlands were exempted from paying the Sound Duty.

Nevertheless, Danes remember Christian IV as one of the great kings of Denmark. He had a very long reign, from 1588 to 1648, and has become known as "the architect on the Danish throne" because of the large number of building projects he undertook. Many of the great buildings of Denmark date from his reign. After the death of Christian IV in 1648, his son Frederick succeeded him.

Second Northern War (1655–1660) Edit

In 1657, during the Second Northern War, Denmark–Norway launched a war of revenge against Sweden (then distracted in Poland) which turned into a complete disaster. The war became a disaster for two reasons: Primarily, because Denmark's new powerful ally, the Netherlands, remained neutral as Denmark was the aggressor and Sweden the defender. Secondly, the Belts froze over in a rare occurrence during the winter of 1657–1658, allowing Charles X Gustav of Sweden to lead his armies across the ice to invade Zealand.

In the following Treaty of Roskilde, Denmark–Norway capitulated and gave up all of Eastern Denmark (Danish: Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and Bornholm), in addition to the counties of Bahusia (Norwegian: Båhuslen) and Trøndelag in Norway. Holstein-Gottorp was also tied to Sweden, providing a gateway for future invasions from the south.

But the Second Northern War was not yet over. Three months after the peace treaty was signed, Charles X Gustav of Sweden held a council of war where he decided to simply wipe Denmark from the map and unite all of Scandinavia under his rule. Once again the Swedish army arrived outside Copenhagen. However, this time the Danes did not panic or surrender. Instead, they decided to fight and prepared to defend Copenhagen.

Frederick III of Denmark had stayed in his capital and now encouraged the citizens of Copenhagen to resist the Swedes, by saying he would die in his nest. Furthermore, this unprovoked declaration of war by Sweden finally triggered the alliance that Denmark–Norway had with the Netherlands. A powerful Dutch fleet was sent to Copenhagen with vital supplies and reinforcements, which saved the city from being captured during the Swedish attack. Furthermore, Brandenburg-Prussia, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Habsburg monarchy had gathered large forces to aid Denmark–Norway and fighting continued into 1659.

Charles X Gustav of Sweden suddenly died of an illness in early 1660, while planning an invasion of Norway. Following his death, Sweden made peace in the Treaty of Copenhagen. The Swedes returned Trøndelag to Norway and Bornholm to Denmark, but kept both Bahusia and Terra Scania. The Netherlands and other European powers accepted the settlement, not wanting both coasts of the Sound controlled by Denmark. This treaty established the boundaries between Norway, Denmark, and Sweden that still exist today. All in all, Sweden had now surpassed Denmark as the most powerful country in Scandinavia.

Absolutism Edit

As a result of the disaster in the war against Sweden, King Frederick III (reigned 1648–1670) succeeded in convincing the nobles to give up some of their powers and their exemption from taxes, leading to the era of absolutism in Denmark. The country's main objective in the following decades was the recovery of its lost provinces from Sweden. In the 1670s, Denmark–Norway had regained enough strength to start a war with Sweden to recover its lost provinces. However, in spite of Denmark's outside support, naval dominance and initial support from the population of the former eastern provinces, the war ended in a bitter stalemate.

Great Northern War (1700–1721) Edit

A renewed attack during the Third Northern War (1700–1721) first resulted in the unfavourable Peace of Travendal, but after Denmark's re-entry into the war and Sweden's ultimate defeat by a large alliance, Sweden was no longer a threat to Denmark. However, the great powers opposed any Danish territorial gains, which meant the Treaty of Frederiksborg did not return the former eastern provinces to Denmark. Furthermore, Denmark was even forced to return Swedish Pomerania, held by Danish forces since 1715, to Sweden. Denmark now had no hope of recovering its lost provinces from Sweden. As noted earlier, the rest of Europe was simply against the Sound being controlled by a single nation ever again.

For most of the 18th century, Denmark was at peace. The only time when war threatened was in 1762, when the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp became Tsar Peter III of Russia and declared war on Denmark over his ancestral claims in Schleswig. Before any fighting could begin, however, he was overthrown by his wife, who took control of Russia as Tsarina Catherine II (Catherine the Great). [20] Empress Catherine withdrew her husband's demands and negotiated the transfer of ducal Schleswig-Holstein to the Danish crown in return for Russian control of the County of Oldenburg and adjacent lands within the Holy Roman Empire, an exchange that was formalized with the 1773 Treaty of Tsarskoye Selo. The alliance that accompanied the territorial exchange tied Denmark's foreign policy to Russia's and led directly to Denmark's involvement in a series of wars over the succeeding decades.

With the suspension of the Danish diet, that body disappeared for a couple of centuries. During this time power became increasingly centralized in Copenhagen. Frederick's government reorganized itself in a much more hierarchical manner, built around the king as a focal point of administration. Crown officials dominated the administration, as well as a new group of bureaucrats, much to the dismay of the traditional aristocracy, who saw their own influence curtailed even further. The absolutist kings of Denmark were quite weak compared to their Swedish counterparts, and non-noble landlords became the real rulers of the country. They used their influence to pass laws that favored themselves.

The administration and laws underwent "modernization" during this period. In 1683, the Danske lov 1683 (Danish Code) standardized and collected all the old provincial laws. Other initiatives included the standardization of all weights and measures throughout the kingdom, and an agricultural survey and registry. This survey allowed the government to begin taxing landowners directly, moving it beyond dependence on revenue from crown lands.

The population of Denmark rose steadily through this period, from 600,000 in 1660 (after the loss of territory to Sweden) to 700,000 in 1720. By 1807, it had risen to 978,000.

Changes in the agricultural economy Edit

Attempts to diversify the economy away from agriculture failed. During this period, little industry existed, except for a very small amount in Copenhagen (population: 30,000). In the late 17th century a small amount of industry did develop, catering to the military. Denmark suffered in part because of its lack of natural resources. It had nothing much to export except agricultural products. The Netherlands bought the largest share of Denmark's exports. The landlords, only about 300 in number, nevertheless owned 90% of the land in the country.

Rural administration remained primarily the preserve of the large landholders and of a few law-enforcement officials. In 1733, low crop prices caused the introduction of adscription, an effort by the landlords to obtain cheap labor. The effect of this was to turn the previously free Danish peasantry into serfs. The adscription system tied rural laborers to their place of birth and required them to rent farms on the estates.

As rent, peasants were required to work the landlords' plots and could not negotiate contracts or demand payment for improvements made to the farm. Peasants who refused to rent a farm were subject to six years of military service. Danish agriculture was very inefficient and unproductive as a result, since the peasants had no motivation to perform anything more than the absolute minimum of work. Attempts to sell Danish grain in Norway failed because of its low quality compared to grain from the Baltic.

In the late 18th century, extensive agricultural reforms took place, involving the abolition of the old open-field system and the amalgamation of many smaller farms into larger ones. With the abolition of the adscription system, the military could now only obtain manpower through conscription. These reforms were possible because agricultural prices steadily rose in the second half of the century.

Throughout the 18th century, the Danish economy did very well, largely on the basis of expanded agricultural output to meet growing demand across Europe. Danish merchant ships also traded around Europe and the North Atlantic, venturing to new Danish colonies in the Caribbean and North Atlantic.

The Enlightenment and Danish nationalism Edit

New propriety and Enlightenment ideas became popular among the middle classes of Denmark, arousing increased interest in personal liberty. In the last 15 years of the 18th century, the authorities relaxed the censorship which had existed since the beginning of the 17th century. At the same time, a sense of Danish nationalism began to develop. Hostility increased against Germans and Norwegians present at the royal court. Pride in the Danish language and culture increased, and eventually a law banned "foreigners" from holding posts in the government. Antagonism between Germans and Danes increased from the mid-18th century on.

In the 1770s, during the reign of the mentally unstable Christian VII (1766–1808), the queen Caroline Matilda's lover, a German doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee, became the real ruler of the country. Filled with the ideas of the Enlightenment, he attempted a number of radical reforms including freedom of the press and religion. But it was short-lived. The landlords feared that the reforms were a threat to their power, while the commoners believed that religious freedom was an invitation to atheism.

In 1772, Struensee was arrested, tried, and convicted of crimes against the majesty, his right hand was cut off following his beheading, his remains were quartered and put on display on top of spikes on the commons west of Copenhagen. The next 12 years were a period of unmitigated reaction until a group of reformers gained power in 1784.

Reforms Edit

Denmark became the model of enlightened despotism, partially influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. Denmark thus adopted liberalizing reforms in line with those of the French Revolution, with no direct contact. Danes were aware of French ideas and agreed with them, as it moved from Danish absolutism to a liberal constitutional system between 1750 and 1850. The change of government in 1784 was caused by a power vacuum created when King Christian VII took ill, and influence shifted to the crown prince (who later became King Frederick VI) and reform-oriented landowners. Between 1784 and 1815, the abolition of serfdom made the majority of the peasants into landowners. The government also introduced free trade and universal education. In contrast to France under the ancien regime, agricultural reform was intensified in Denmark, civil rights were extended to the peasants, the finances of the Danish state were healthy, and there were no external or internal crises. That is, reform was gradual and the regime itself carried out agrarian reforms that had the effect of weakening absolutism by creating a class of independent peasant freeholders. Much of the initiative came from well-organized liberals who directed political change in the first half of the 19th century. [21]

Newspapers Edit

Danish news media first appeared in the 1540s, when handwritten fly sheets reported on the news. In 1666, Anders Bording, the father of Danish journalism, began a state paper. The royal privilege to bring out a newspaper was issued to Joachim Wielandt in 1720. University officials handled the censorship, but in 1770 Denmark became one of the first nations of the world to provide for press freedom it ended in 1799. In 1795–1814, the press, led by intellectuals and civil servants, called out for a more just and modern society, and spoke out for the oppressed tenant farmers against the power of the old aristocracy. [22]

In 1834, the first liberal newspaper appeared, one that gave much more emphasis to actual news content rather than opinions. The newspapers championed the Revolution of 1848 in Denmark. The new constitution of 1849 liberated the Danish press. Newspapers flourished in the second half of the 19th century, usually tied to one or another political party or labor union. Modernization, bringing in new features and mechanical techniques, appeared after 1900. The total circulation was 500,000 daily in 1901, more than doubling to 1.2 million in 1925. The German occupation brought informal censorship some offending newspaper buildings were simply blown up by the Nazis. During the war, the underground produced 550 newspapers—small, surreptitiously printed sheets that encouraged sabotage and resistance. [23]

Colonial ventures Edit

Denmark maintained a number of colonies outside Scandinavia, starting in the 17th century and lasting until the 20th century. Denmark also controlled traditional colonies in Greenland [24] and Iceland [25] in the north Atlantic, obtained through the union with Norway. Christian IV (reigned 1588–1648) first initiated the policy of expanding Denmark's overseas trade, as part of the mercantilist trend then popular in European governing circles. Denmark established its own first colony at Tranquebar, or Trankebar, on India's south coast, in 1620.

In the Caribbean Denmark started a colony on St Thomas in 1671, St John in 1718, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. Denmark maintained its Indian colony, Tranquebar, as well as several other smaller colonies there, for about two hundred years. The Danish East India Company operated out of Tranquebar.

During its heyday, the Danish East Indian Company and the Swedish East India Company imported more tea than the British East India Company — and smuggled 90% of it into Britain, where it sold at a huge profit. Both of the Scandinavia-based East India Companies folded during the course of the Napoleonic Wars. Denmark also maintained other colonies, forts, and bases in West Africa, primarily for the purpose of slave-trading.

The Napoleonic Wars Edit

The long decades of peace came to an abrupt end during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain felt threatened by the Armed Neutrality Treaty of 1794, which originally involved Denmark and Sweden, and later Prussia and Russia. The British fleet attacked Copenhagen in 1801, destroying much of Denmark's navy. Denmark nonetheless managed to remain largely uninvolved in the Napoleonic Wars until 1807. The British fleet bombarded Copenhagen again that year, causing considerable destruction to the city. They then captured the entire Danish fleet so that it could not be used by France to invade Britain (as the French had lost their own fleet at Trafalgar in 1805), leading to the Gunboat War (1807–1814). The confiscation of the Danish navy was widely criticised in Britain.

In 1809 Danish forces fighting on the French side participated in defeating the anti-Bonapartist German rebellion led by Ferdinand von Schill, at the Battle of Stralsund. By 1813, Denmark could no longer bear the war costs, and the state was bankrupt. When in the same year the Sixth Coalition isolated Denmark by clearing Northern Germany of French forces, Frederick VI had to make peace. Accordingly, the unfavourable Treaty of Kiel was concluded in January 1814 with Sweden and Great Britain, and another peace was signed with Russia in February.

The post-Napoleonic Congress of Vienna demanded the dissolution of the Dano-Norwegian union, and this was confirmed by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814. The treaty transferred Heligoland to Great Britain and Norway from the Danish to the Swedish crown, Denmark was to be satisfied with Swedish Pomerania. But the Norwegians revolted, declared their independence, and elected crown-prince Christian Frederick (the future Christian VIII) as their king. However, the Norwegian independence movement failed to attract any support from the European powers. After a brief war with Sweden, Christian had to abdicate in order to preserve Norwegian autonomy, established in a personal union with Sweden. In favour of the Kingdom of Prussia, Denmark renounced her claims to Swedish Pomerania at the Congress of Vienna (1815), and instead was satisfied with the Duchy of Lauenburg and a Prussian payment of 3.5 million talers. Prussia also took over a Danish 600,000-taler debt to Sweden.

This period also counts as "the Golden Age" of Danish intellectual history. A sign of renewed intellectual vigor was the introduction of compulsory schooling in 1814. Literature, painting, sculpture, and philosophy all experienced an unusually vibrant period. The stories of Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) became popular not only in Denmark, but all over Europe and in the United States. [26] The ideas of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) spread far beyond Denmark, influencing not only his own era, but proving instrumental in the development of new philosophical systems after him. The sculptures of Thorvaldsen (1770–1834) grace public buildings all over Denmark and other artists appreciated and copied his style. Grundtvig (1783–1872) tried to reinvigorate the Danish National Church and contributed to the hymns used by the church in Denmark.

Nationalism and liberalism Edit

The Danish liberal and national movements gained momentum in the 1830s, and after the European revolutions of 1848 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy on 5 June 1849. The growing bourgeoisie had demanded a share in government, and in an attempt to avert the sort of bloody revolution occurring elsewhere in Europe, Frederick VII gave in to the demands of the citizens. A new constitution emerged, separating the powers and granting the franchise to all adult males, as well as freedom of the press, religion, and association. The king became head of the executive branch. The legislative branch consisted of two parliamentary chambers the Folketing, comprising members elected by the general population, and the Landsting, elected by landowners. Denmark also gained an independent judiciary.

Another significant result of the revolution was the abolition of slavery in the Danish West Indies, the Danish colony in the Caribbean, which at an earlier part of its history witnessed the biggest slave auctions in the world. [27] In 1845 Denmark's other tropical colony, Tranquebar in India, was sold to Britain.

The Danish king's realm still consisted of the islands, the northern half of the Jutland peninsula, and the Duchy of Schleswig in real union with the Duchy of Holstein.

The islands and Jutland together constituted the kingdom, whereas the monarch held the duchies in personal union with the kingdom. The duchy of Schleswig constituted a Danish fief, while the Duchy of Holstein remained a part of the German Confederation.

Since the early 18th century, and even more so from the early 19th century, the Danes had become used to viewing the duchies and the kingdom as increasingly unified in one state. This view, however, clashed with that of the German majority in the duchies, also enthused by liberal and national trends, which led to a movement known as Schleswig-Holsteinism. Schleswig-Holsteinists aimed for independence from Denmark. The First Schleswig War (1848–1851) broke out after constitutional change in 1849 and ended with the status quo because of the intervention of Britain and other Great Powers.

Much debate took place in Denmark as to how to deal with the question of Schleswig-Holstein. National-Liberals demanded permanent ties between Schleswig and Denmark, but stated that Holstein could do as it pleased. However, international events overtook domestic Danish politics, and Denmark faced war against both Prussia and Austria in what became known as the Second Schleswig War (1864). The war lasted from February to October 1864. Denmark was easily beaten by Prussia and Austria, and obliged to relinquish both Schleswig and Holstein.

The war caused Denmark as a nation severe trauma, forcing it to reconsider its place in the world. The loss of Schleswig-Holstein came as the latest in the long series of defeats and territorial loss that had begun in the 17th century. The Danish state had now lost some of the richest areas of the kingdom: Skåne to Sweden and Schleswig to Germany, so the nation focused on developing the poorer areas of the country. Extensive agricultural improvements took place in Jutland, and a new form of nationalism, which emphasized the "small" people, the decency of rural Denmark, and the shunning of wider aspirations, developed.

Industrialisation Edit

Industrialisation came to Denmark in the second half of the 19th century. The nation's first railroads were constructed in the 1850s, and improved communications and overseas trade allowed industry to develop in spite of Denmark's lack of natural resources. Trade unions developed starting in the 1870s. There was a considerable migration of people from the countryside to the cities, and Danish agriculture became centered around the export of dairy and meat products. Lampke and Sharp argue that Denmark's success as in the dairy industry was not based on co-operatives, which came in the late nineteenth century. Instead leadership was in the hands of the landed, intellectual and political elites. They made land reforms, adopted new technologies, and started educational and trading systems. Together these made Denmark a major exporter of butter after 1850. Land reform enabled the growth of a middle ranking class of farmers. They copied the innovations pioneered by wealthy estate owners, and implemented them through newly formed co-operatives. [28]

Internationalism and nationalism have become very much part of the history of the Danish Labour movement. The Labour movement gathered momentum when social issues became associated with internationalism. Socialist theory and organisational contact with the First International, which linked labour movements in various countries, paved the way. Louis Pio emerged as the driving force. In 1871, following the bloody defeat of the Paris Commune, he started publishing socialist journalism. He campaigned strongly for an independent organisation of the workers under their own management, and organised a Danish branch of the First International. This became the foundation stone for the Social Democratic Party under the name of Den Internationale Arbejderforening for Danmark (The International Labour Association for Denmark). As a combination of union and political party, it adroitly brought together national and international elements. [29]

Pio saw internationalism as vital for the success of the workers' struggle: without internationalism, no progress. He pointed out that the middle classes cooperated across national frontiers and used nationalistic rhetoric as a weapon against the workers and their liberation. [30]

The Danish section started organising strikes and demonstrations for higher wages and social reforms. [31] Demands were moderate, but enough to provoke the employers and the forces of law and order. Things came to a head in the Battle of Fælleden on 5 May 1872. The authorities arrested the three leaders, Louis Pio, Poul Geleff and Harald Brix, charged them and convicted them of high treason. The three left Denmark for the United States to set up the ill-starred and short-lived socialist colony near Hays City, in Ellis County, Kansas.

Back in Denmark, the emerging political situation made possible by the new Danish door of independence alarmed many of the existing elites, since it inevitably empowered the peasantry. Simple men with little education replaced professors and professionals in positions of power. The peasants, in coalition with liberal and radical elements from the cities, eventually won a majority of seats in the Folketing. Even though constitutional changes had taken place to boost the power of the Landsting, the Left Venstre Party demanded to form the government, but the king, still the head of the executive branch, refused. However, in 1901, king Christian IX gave in and asked Johan Henrik Deuntzer, a member of Venstre, to form a government, the Cabinet of Deuntzer. This began a tradition of parliamentary government, and with the exception of the Easter Crisis of 1920, no government since 1901 has ruled against a parliamentary majority in the Folketing.

Monetary union Edit

The Scandinavian Monetary Union, a monetary union formed by Sweden and Denmark on 5 May 1873, fixed both their currencies against gold at par to each other. Norway, governed in union with Sweden, entered the monetary union two years later in 1875 by pegging its currency to gold at the same level as Denmark and Sweden (.403 gram). [32] The monetary union proved one of the few tangible results of the Scandinavist political movement of the 19th century.

The union provided fixed exchange-rates and stability in monetary terms, but the member-countries continued to issue their own separate currencies. In an outcome not initially foreseen, the perceived security led to a situation where the formally separate currencies circulated on a basis of "as good as" the legal tender virtually throughout the entire area.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought an end to the monetary union. Sweden abandoned the tie to gold on 2 August 1914, and without a fixed exchange rate the free circulation came to an end.

1901–1939 Edit

In the early decades of the 20th century the new Radical Party and the older Venstre Party shared government. During this time women gained the right to vote (1915), and the United States purchased some of Denmark's colonial holdings: the three islands of St. John, St. Croix, and St. Thomas in the West Indies. The period also saw Denmark inaugurating important social and labour-market reforms, laying the basis for the present [update] welfare state.

Denmark remained neutral during World War I, but the conflict affected the country to a considerable extent. As its economy was heavily based on exports, the unrestricted German submarine warfare was a serious problem. Denmark had no choice but to sell many of its exports to Germany instead of overseas nations. Widespread profiteering took place, but commerce also suffered great disruption because of the conflict and because of the ensuing financial instability in Europe. Rationing was instituted, and there were food and fuel shortages. In addition, Denmark was forced by Berlin to mine the Sound to prevent British ships from entering it. Following the defeat of Germany in the war (1918), the Treaty of Versailles (1919) mandated the Schleswig Plebiscites, which resulted in the return of Northern Schleswig (now [update] South Jutland) to Denmark. The king and parts of the opposition grumbled that Prime Minister Carl Theodor Zahle (in office 1909–1910 and 1913–1920) did not use Germany's defeat to take back a bigger portion of the province, which Denmark had lost in the Second Schleswig War in 1864. The king and the opposition wanted to take over the city of Flensburg, while the cabinet insisted on only claiming areas where a majority of Danes lived, which led to a plebiscite in the affected areas over whether they wanted to become a part of Denmark or remain within Germany. Believing that he had the support of the people, King Christian X used his reserve power to dismiss Zahle's cabinet, sparking the Easter Crisis of 1920. As a result of the Easter Crisis, the king promised to no longer interfere in politics. Although the Danish Constitution was not amended at that time, Danish monarchs have stayed out of politics since then. The end of the war also prompted the Danish government to finish negotiating with Iceland, resulting in Iceland becoming a sovereign Kingdom on 1 December 1918 while retaining the Danish monarch as head of state.

In the 1924 Folketing election the Social Democrats, under the charismatic Thorvald Stauning, became Denmark's largest parliamentary political party, a position they maintained until 2001. Since the opposition still held a majority of the seats in the Landsting, Stauning had to co-operate with some of the right-wing parties, making the Social Democrats a more mainstream party. He succeeded in brokering an important deal in the 1930s which brought an end to the Great Depression in Denmark, and also laid the foundation for a welfare state.

Denmark joined the League of Nations in 1920 and during the interwar period was active in promoting peaceful solutions to international issues. With the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany during the 1930s, the country found itself in a very precarious situation. Berlin refused to recognize its post-1920 border with Denmark, however the Nazi regime was preoccupied with more important matters and did not make any issue of it. The Danes tried unsuccessfully to obtain recognition of the border from their neighbor, but otherwise went out of their way to avoid antagonizing Germany.

Second World War Edit

In 1939, Hitler offered nonaggression pacts to the Scandinavian nations. While Sweden and Norway refused, Denmark readily accepted. When WWII began that fall, Copenhagen declared its neutrality. Nevertheless, Germany (so as to secure communications for its invasion of Norway) occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940, meeting limited resistance. British forces, however, occupied the Faroe Islands (12 April 1940) and invaded Iceland (10 May 1940) in pre-emptive moves to prevent German occupation. Following a plebiscite, Iceland declared its independence on June 17, 1944 and became a republic, dissolving its union with Denmark.

The Nazi occupation of Denmark unfolded in a unique manner. The Monarchy remained. The conditions of occupation started off very leniently (although the authorities banned Danmarks Kommunistiske Parti (the Communist party) when the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941), and Denmark retained its own government. The new coalition government tried to protect the population from Nazi rule through compromise. The Germans allowed the Folketing to remain in session. Despite deportations of nearly 2,000 of its members, the police remained largely under Danish control, and the German authorities stayed one step removed from the population. However, the Nazi demands eventually became intolerable for the Danish government, so, in 1943, it resigned and Germany assumed full control of Denmark. From that point, an armed resistance movement grew against the occupying forces. Towards the end of the war, Denmark grew increasingly difficult for Germany to control, but the country remained under occupation until near the end of the war. On 4 May 1945, German forces in Denmark, North West Germany, and the Netherlands surrendered to the Allies. On 5 May 1945, British troops liberated Copenhagen. Three days later, the war ended.

Denmark succeeded in smuggling most of its Jewish population to Sweden, in 1943, when the Nazis threatened deportation see Rescue of the Danish Jews. Danish doctors refused to treat German citizens fleeing from Germany. More than 13,000 died in 1945 from various causes among them some 7,000 children under five. [33]

Post-war Edit

In 1948, Denmark granted home rule to the Faroe Islands. 1953 saw further political reform in Denmark, abolishing the Landsting (the elected upper house), colonial status for Greenland and allowing female rights of succession to the throne with the signing of a new constitution.

Although not one of the war-time United Nations, Denmark succeeded in obtaining a (belated) invitation to the UN Charter conference, and became a founding member of the United Nations organisation in 1945. [34] With the Soviet occupation of Bornholm, the emergence of what evolved to become the Cold War and with the lessons of World War II still fresh in Danish minds, the country abandoned its former policy of neutrality and became one of the original founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949. Denmark had originally tried to form an alliance with Norway and Sweden only, but this attempt had failed. A Nordic Council later emerged however, with the aim of co-ordinating Nordic policies. Later on, in a referendum in 1972, Danes voted in favour of joining the European Community, the predecessor of the European Union, and Denmark became a member on 1 January 1973. Since then, Denmark has proven a hesitant member of the European community, opting out of many proposals, including the Euro, which the country rejected in a referendum in 2000.

Natural and money economy in medieval Norway

The aim of this paper is to challenge some of the established views on monetary and economic aspects of medieval Norwegian history. This challenge is not only based on a different understanding of the evidence, but also on new interpretations of documentary and numismatic evidence. Contrary to what has been the general understanding I argue that money was available, and it was, in longer periods of time, available within a framework of a well organized monetary system with large coinages. In the second half of the 12th century, coins became distributed and used among a larger group of people in rural areas than ever before. In market places and towns, money economy was emerging in the 11th and 12th, and probably seen partly in effect in the 13th and 14th century. If we accept the evidence for coinage and the use of money as being widely distributed, or even accept it partly, it opens up a range of new perspectives to use as starting points for understanding medieval monetary and economic history in Norway.


Kåre Lunden, Money Economy in Medieval Norway, Scandinavian Journal of History, no. 3/4, 1999, pp. 245–265 Svein H. Gullbekk, Medieval Law and Money in Norway, Numismatic Chronicle 1998, pp. 173–184. See also Ragnhild Høgsæt, The Use of Money in Early Modern Norway, Scandinavian Journal of History, no. 1, 2001, which I hope to come back to.

Lunden 1999, p. 250. See also Asgaut Steinnes, Mål, vekt og verderekning i Noreg i millomalderen og ei tid etter, in Mål og Vekt, Sven Aakjær (ed.), Nordisk Kultur XXIX, Copenhagen 1936, p. 129.

L.B. Stenersen, Myntfundet fra Græslid i Thydalen. Festprogram i anledning av Deres Kongelige Höiheder Kronprins Oscar Gustav Adolphs og Kronprinsesse Sophie Marie Victorias formæling den 20de september 1881, Christiania 1881. Stenersen published several other important Norwegian hoards from second half of 11th century L.B. Stenersen, Om et myntfund fra Imsland i Ryfylke, Forhandlinger for Videnskabs Selskabet Christiania 1889, no. 6 L.B. Stenersen, Om et Myntfund fra Helgeland i Hole, Videnskabs Selskabet Skrifter II, Hist.‐filos. klasse 1895, no. 3 L.B. Stenersen and A.W. Brögger, Et myntfund fra Maage i Ullensvang, Bergen Museum Årbok 1912, no. 7.

Svein H. Gullbekk, Pengevesenets fremvekst og fall i Norge i middelalderen, Oslo 2003, pp. 42–45.

Kolbjørn Skaare, Viking Age Coins and Coinage in Norway, Universitetsforlaget 1976 ref. Note 4.

Svein H. Gullbekk, Renovatio monetae i Norge i middelalderen, Nordisk Numismatisk Årsskrift (NNÅ) 1992–93, pp. 52–87.

Diplomatarium Norvegicum (DN) I, 72–73.

Iiij.m iiij.c marchas monete subtilis dicti Regni Norwegie

v.m marchas veteris grosse monete

v.c marchas veteris subtilis monete

Pavelige Nuntiers Regnskabs‐ og Dagböger førte under tiende‐opkrævingen i Norden 12821334 (PNRD), ed. P.A. Munch, Christiania 1864, pp. 12–14.

Kåre Lunden, Korn og kaup, studiar over prisar og jordbruk på Vestlandet i mellomalderen, Universitetsforlaget 1978, p. 93.

Calculations by Asgaut Steinnes, Peningar vegnir og peningar svartnir, Historisk Tidsskrift (HT) r. 5, bd. 6 (1924–1927), p. 527.

For a survey of the metrological analysis of Medieval Norwegian coins see Kolbjørn Skaare and Eiliv Steinnes, Mynter i atomreaktoren, aktiveringsanalyser av norske middelaldermynter, Nordisk Numismatisk Unions Medlemsblad (NNUM) 1966, 81–89 Gullbekk 2003, pp. 429–430, with a catalogue of metal analysis, pp. 431–437.

Cf. DN IV, 60 DN II, 162 DN I, 332 DN VIII, 169–171 PNRD pp. 13, 19–20 and 22–25.

Asgaut Steinnes, Gamal skatteskipnad, II, Oslo 1933, 207 Halvard Bjørkvik, Landskyld, Kulturhistorisk Leksikon for Nordisk Middelalder (KLNM) X, 1965, column 281.

Lunden 1999, p. 247. This study was originally published in Korn og Kaup (1978).

Lunden 1999, p. 247 w/ref. Korn og kaup (1978), p. 24 ff.

Cf. Kåre Lunden, Norge under Sverreætten 11771399, Norges Historie, vol. 3, Aschehoug 1976 (reprinted 1995), p. 366 Knut Helle, Under kirke og kongemakt 11301319, Aschehoug 1995, p. 111 Ole Georg Moseng, Erik Opsahl, Gunnar I. Pettersen, Erling Sandmo, Norges historie 7501537, Tano‐Aschehoug 1999, 233–234.

Gulatingsloven (GT) § 223.

Lunden 1978, pp. 24–5, tab. 3.1a and 3.1b.

i.e. 30 marks of refined silver paid in butter, grain, cattle, gold and silver (DN II, 81) 27 marks of silver in butter, hides and valid coins (DN XII, 51) 30 marks of old silver in butter and silver (DN I, 169) 12 marks of refined silver in English sterlings, cloth, butter and hides (DN XII, 86).

56 kyrlag paid in cattle and silver (DN I, 82) kyrlag paid in valid coins (DN V, 219) 40 kyrlag paid in 10 marks 5 øres and 1 ertug weighed silver and 12 marks of valid coins (DN III, 122) 20 kyrlag paid in grain, butter and refined silver (DN V, 124).

KLNM, ‘Mark’, vol. XI, column 420–41 Op.cit., Markebol’, vol. XI, column 441–445.

DN I, 283 DN II, 234 DN VII, 35 and (DN XII, 25).

Lunden 1999, p. 253 (Lunden's italization).

Lunden 1999, p. 253 w/ref. Norges Gamle Love (NGL) III, 5.

NGL III, no. 5 (my translation).

Lunden 1999, p. 253 w/ref. to NGL III, pp. 171 ff.

Heimskringla (Hkr.), Magnus Erlingssons saga, ch. 16. This matter is a source of discussion between the archbishop and Erling Skakke in Bergen in 1164 (op.cit., ch. 21).

Lunden 1999, p. 257 and repeatedly pp. 255‐260 with reference to DN II, 50, DN IV, 48, DN II, 113, DN II, 182, DN II, 183, DN III, 256, DN IV, 312.

Regesta Norvegica (RN) V, no. 628 NGL III, pp. 162–163.

The decree is made according to old tradition, which implies that it is relevant at least to the period before the Magnuslaw of 1274.


This paper investigates the determinants of monetary stability in Europe from the late medieval era until World War I. Through this period, the anchor for monetary policy was the silver or gold value of the monetary unit. States, however, frequently abandoned this anchor, some depreciating their monetary units against silver and gold less than 10-fold and others more than 10,000-fold between 1500 and 1914. To understand the determinants of these differences, we compile a new and comprehensive monetary history dataset for all major states in Europe and test alternative theories. We find strong evidence that political factors, and in particular, fiscal capacity, political regime and warfare explain patterns of monetary stability. This finding is robust to addressing endogeneity, controlling for the instability induced by the mechanics of the monetary system and accounting for the impacts of new monetary technologies and the advent of fiat standard.

My books

Coming 31st May:

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surreywill be released in the UK on 31 May and in the US on 6 August. And it is now available for pre-order from Pen & Sword Books, Amazon in the UK and US and Book Depository.

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon, Amberley Publishing, Book Depository.

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©2021 Sharon Bennett Connolly and Dan Moorhouse

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American Feudalism

Like most historical debates, feudalism versus capitalism in Latin America began in the 1960s as a political issue. Tactical decisions of the left depended upon whether Latin America was ready for socialism or had yet to move from a feudal to a capitalist stage. Ruggiero Romano, in one of his essays in Cuestiones de historia económica latino-americana (1966), argued that the colonial economy of the eighteenth century was a “natural economy” traditionally associated with feudalism. In América Latina: ¿Feudalismo o capitalismo? (1973), André Gunder Frank and Rodolfo Puiggrós presented diametrically opposed views, the latter insisting on the feudal nature of the colonial centuries, the former on their predominantly capitalist features. In the same publication, Ernest Laclau tried to clarify the issues. This debate has, if anything, been revived by the recent work of the Polish medievalist Witold Kula.

Since Romano was one of the earlier proponents of one view of the issue, the editor invited him to offer his current views. They are presented in a translation from the French.

Before going to the heart of the subject, I would like to examine certain general aspects of feudalism. To this end, I will refer to some personal experiences. I began as a European historian. Only later in my career did I become aware of the problems of Ibero-American history. For a long time, I was a “weekend Americanist” and it was fifteen years before I completely dropped European history.

My first historical work treated an “extremist” (I am unable to be more precise), named Vincenzo Russo, from the Neapolitan Republic of 1799. 1 My work on Russo forced me into the study of feudalism. Russo had said that while it may have been all very well to have eliminated juridical feudalism, that did not resolve the problem of economic feudalism, which still survived. The Neapolitan Republic of 1799—in spite of the presence of French armed forces—was extremely short-lived, being destroyed by Bourbon armies. The Bourbon armies, however, were nothing more than masses of peasants, infuriated with the good bourgeois republicans who had pretended to offer them liberty, equality, and fraternity. Polemics (or discussions) about the fundamental reasons for the collapse of the republic were prolonged and resulted in the appearance of some of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. One, Saggio storico sulla rivoluzione napolentana del 1799, 2 by Vincenzo Cuoco, contains an analysis of the collapse—based on a distinction that certain of today’s would-be revolutionaries would do well to consider. Cuoco maintained that the Neapolitan revolution was “passive" rather than "active." The passivity of the revolution hinged not only on the fact that republicanism had been forced on the people by a foreign army, but also on the fact that the republican revolutionary program did not take into consideration the necessities of the conquered. This lack of adaptation to local circumstances brought the problem of feudalism to light again.

All that is by way of pointing out that by the time I was twenty years old, I found myself face-to-face with the problem of feudalism—even though I was studying late eighteenth-century Europe.

Subsequently I switched to Venetian history—concentrating on the problem of naval construction. Was Venice a feudal city in the sixteenth century? Of course not. But if we go from the lagoon to terra firma (not to speak of Candía or Cyprus), can we really be expected to believe that Venice’s victory over the Cambrian League was due solely to its extraordinary military (and financial) efforts? No. It was something more. The nobles of terra firma—feudal lords—allied themselves with imperial forces and the French. The peasants, on the other hand, fought to the cries of “Marco! Marco!”—in the hope, which was not to be realized, of achieving freedom. Once again, we find a series of contradictions in which feudalism still appears.

Next, I studied eighteenth-century Marseilles. Certainly there was no feudalism there. But while treating commerce and the price of wheat, I was obliged to go into the countryside. Again I discovered feudalism. Next I worked on Livorno, in collaboration with F. Braudel. To be sure, there was no trace of feudalism in Livorno. There was an abundance of it in Tuscany.

But I gained my true and direct knowledge of feudalism when I became interested in the long-term crises of the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries throughout Europe. Here, of course, the problem became more complicated since the transition from feudalism to capitalism was appearing, at least in certain regions.

Thus, when I had to write a comprehensive essay on the Italian economy from the fifth century to the present, I did not hesitate to speak of a “blocco feodale” lasting fifteen centuries. The expression was perhaps exaggerated, but even today I defend and use it. Why? To answer this question is tantamount to defining what I mean by feudalism.

I confess that its constitutional and institutional aspects are of little interest to me (even if, in the Italian, German, French, and Polish context, I find feudal institutions at least—I say again, at least—until the end of the eighteenth century).

What interests me most is the economic. What is feudalism, then, in this sense? I do not believe it is possible to give a direct and affirmative definition. This is to say that it seems to me impossible (except for the period of the High Middle Ages) to say: “feudalism is this, that, and the other.” I believe, on the contrary, that a feudal economy can much better be defined by what it is not. And it is not: (a) a purely (or essentially) monetary economy (b) an economy with an internal market of any great size (c) an economy with freedom of entrance to and exit from the labor market (d) an economy with liberty of access to and withdrawal from the goods market.

If I were to sum up these four limitations, I would say—this time affirmatively—that a feudal economy is essentially a natural economy. By essentially, I mean that, for the most part, it exists in a system of natural exchange, both in the goods market and in the labor market. And this is not contradicted by the fact that international trade takes place. It is enough to have a minimal knowledge of the economic history of the High Middle Ages to know that feudalism is not incompatible with long-range trade relations. 3 And it is hardly necessary to mention that long-distance commerce dates from the age of copper. 4

These considerations permit a much broader judgment to be made. For a long time, experts—from Sombart to Pirenne to Sapori (to name only three amongst the hundreds)—had too exclusive an interest in international commerce and in its basic instrument, money. If merchandise and money circulate, all is well. If they do not, then we are in feudal darkness. But it was forgotten (and, especially in the American context, it is still forgotten today) that a city like Venice or a trade center like Novgorod does not have the strength to give a capitalistic character to an entire economic region—and, in any case, it would be a matter of a mercantile or usurious capitalism.

In short, the basic problem remains one of production and means of production, whereas the problem of distribution is certainly a secondary phenomenon, or perhaps even an epiphenomenon.

I do not want to dismiss lightly the very important research of Huguette and Pierre Chaunu, 5 or the equally important research of Antonio García-Baquero González, 6 but I insist on the fact that the value of the pulque consumed by the Mexican populace clearly exceeded the value of this so closely studied commerce. In like fashion, the value of wheat consumed in Florence during the prosperous year of 1300 was greater than that of the 100,000 pieces of cloth produced that year (an absolute record, as Villani tells us). 7 In fact, Mexican pulque and Florentine wheat were, to a great extent, objects of barter or of home consumption and not exchanged for money in a free market.

After these general considerations, let us examine the problem at hand in more detail. In what sense is it possible to speak about feudalism in the American context? And, especially, where and how can it be found? I believe that a useful point of departure would be the characteristics of land ownership.

Initially we think above all of the mercedes de tierra in the Hispano-American world and sesmarias in the Luso-American world. 8 What is meant by these terms? Concessions of more or less large areas of land to persons who have particularly distinguished themselves in the conquest of America. But the conquista never ends: it continues even today. 9 This land was without value, however, as long as labor was not available. So there appeared on the scene encomiendas de indios 10 and slavery. Slavery was a clear concept. Encomiendas were a matter of grants of workers entrusted (encomendados) to a conquistador, who had the obligation to civilize them (i.e., to take care of their evangelization). The encomendados, in turn, had to provide obligatory labor. 11

Mercedes and encomiendas already seem to have sufficiently “feudal” traits to characterize the sixteenth-century economy. I know quite well that it will be pointed out (as it already has been) that the classical feudal grant of land and men was always accompanied by the obligation on the part of the feudatory to offer a whole range of services (especially in times of war). In the American world, however, these obligations did not appear. But one fact is forgotten: the American world was free of conflict. In fact, where a chronic state of war existed (as in southern Chile, for example) 12 the grants of encomienda took into consideration military services.

To be sure, the mercedes de tierra, without totally disappearing, 13 were to lose their importance in the course of the sixteenth century. The encomiendas de indios, also, would see their economic importance diminish. It is necessary, then, to attempt to understand the means of acquiring land and securing manpower. As for land: illicit occupation, in most diverse and most subtle forms, was the rule. The numerous attempts on the part of the Spanish state to instill order into this process, or to restore it, always failed. We know quite well that the composiciones de tierras never came to an end. 14 And the occupation of land—even if disguised in a thousand ways, would continue to our time. 15

As far as labor went, the situation did not change much. I repeat: the encomiendas would certainly lose their strength (in differing ways, according to the region), but other institutions would persist: the mita, for example.

And brand new forms would also appear: peonaje, yanaconazgo, inquilinaje. But what were these “new” forms of “free” labor (as they have been too facilely defined)?

The inquilino and the yanacona are people who, in return for the use of a piece of land, gave three, four, or five days of work per week to the lord.

Peones: these, of course, were nominally free workers paid in cash. But to stop at the name is the last thing a historian can or should do. In fact peones were not free: once having entered into the work cycle under a lord, they seldom escaped. The system that created their dependence was simple: indebtedness. The lord (who might be an encomendero, the owner of a mine, a monastery, a priest, a member of the military) paid wages in advance: the peón was obliged to buy (or more accurately, to acquire) cloth, foodstuffs, and alcohol from the lord. Indebtedness was chronic and was transferred from father to son. 16

Allow me a small digression. Medievalists are well acquainted with the polemic between W. Sombart and A. Sapori on the subject of double-entry bookkeeping. Without this technique, said Sombart, there is no capitalism. And Sapori—great archival researcher—found this type of accounting existed in the thirteenth century: so, capitalism already existed in the thirteenth century. With all due respect to these two great historians (although I always preferred Werner Sombart), double-entry bookkeeping in itself does not mean a great deal. What matters is what it records.

Coming back to the American problem, it is easy to observe that there existed in Brazil in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries double-entry bookkeeping, which recorded nothing more than slaves. 17

Likewise, there was double-entry bookkeeping in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries in which sums the peones owed were entered on the credit side! 18 And this was perfectly normal (in the American context): in the thinking of a Perúvian hacendado, for example, the sum of the peons’ debts was capital: the capital consisting of a workforce tied to the land. A ridiculous and even paradoxical example is available. When the Jesuits had to leave Peru, a Jesuit father played a dirty trick: he destroyed the obraje that he administered. There was no need of fires or explosions. He had only to excuse the workers their debts. Once clear of debt, the workers departed, and the obraje became valueless. 19

There was an enormous capacity for inventing new systems of tying the work force to the land in America, in compulsivas [forced] conditions: dobla y redobla in the mines, 20 forced labor in transportation or public works (roads in particular), 21 pongueaje. 22 Disregarding the large cities and ports, let us turn toward the countryside and the mines, where we shall see that the reality of the work world was indeed as I have tried to depict here: in the America of yesterday and—in certain regions—of today. 23 Enormous masses of men had no access to or exit from the labor or goods market.

Another point arises. I have said that the American economy was not a monetary economy. Is this a paradox? Much less than one might think at first sight. Thousands of documents, chronicles, histories, and reports bear witness to this phenomenon.

There was a lack of currency but that was not the most serious problem. This lack was asymmetrical, that is, there was not a homogeneous lack of currency. There were gold coins rather fewer silver coins of large unit value still fewer silver coins of small value. There was absolutely no silver coinage of small value (the cuartillos) or copper coinage.

Now, in the pre-nineteenth-century world, there was no single monetary circulating system, but rather several of them: at least as many as there were strata of coinage (large gold coins, large silver coins, small silver coins, small copper coins). This is the principal lesson to be drawn from an extraordinary article by the late Jean Meuvret. 24 There are, therefore, at least three types of monetary circulation: (a) circulation of gold currency and large silver currency (limited to capital accumulation and large economic enterprises) (b) circulation of silver currency of medium value (for the everyday transactions of the “bourgeoisie”) (c) circulation of silver and copper currency of smaller denomination (for daily use and “popular” needs).

In fact, however, it was precisely the latter that is absolutely nonexistent in Spanish and Portuguese America: the mass of the American population was excluded from the money economy. 25 What was the solution to this problem? With “currencies” of wood, leather, copper, lead, and soap, “issued” by private individuals. 26 For example: if I had gone to buy a loaf of bread worth one cuartillo in eighteenth-century Santiago de Chile, I would have had to pay with a half-real coin, because the cuartillo was not struck until 1792—and then in absolutely insufficient quantities. The baker would then have given me a cuartillo’s worth of bread and a token that he had issued himself. This token, however, had no exchange value outside the bakery. I would therefore have to use it to buy bread at that bakery. 27

That was the least problem, however. The most important thing derives from the fact that barter was the essential means of economic life in the countryside. And let us not forget that the countryside was the essence of economic life, and not only in America, at least until the nineteenth century. 28

All this seems to me clearly confirmed for the entire colonial period: let us say between the early sixteenth century and 1830.

What of the period after 1830? The problem becomes more interesting at this point, because it offers the possibility of studying a concept that—although it has often been touched on by historians and economists—has never been the object of precise analysis: I refer to the problem of transition. 29 Of course, I am acquainted with the innumerable studies that have told us, with erudition and intelligence, about the birth of capitalism. I refer to works from Pirenne to Braudel from Sapori to Luzzatto from Tawney to Dobb from Sombart to Strieder—not to mention the new and innovative work of Wallerstein. I must confess that, with the partial exception of Dobb, I am not overly convinced. And I am not convinced for a very simple reason: all these authors, while writing about capitalism, speak of a birth, but never indicate the parents of the child. Let us leave aside the fact that the proposed chronologies (thirteenth, sixteenth, and eighteenth centuries) are not convincing. It could be said that the medievalists are for the thirteenth century, specialists of the sixteenth century are for the sixteenth century, and modernists for the eighteenth century. How long will it be before specialists of prehistory will speak to us about the birth of capitalism in Neolithic times? For it must be recognized that this capitalism that is constantly being born is not very convincing. What I find absolutely unconvincing, however, is the following fact: the capitalism that these authors and all the others tell us about is born as if by magic and we never find out to what degree the preceding feudalism contributed—by some dialectic process—to this “birth.” In brief, we do not observe the transition from one to the other. Of course, we have recourse to something that might be understood as an indication of the transition process: “precapitalism.” I said: “something.” In fact, I cannot find a closer definition for this famous “precapitalism,” because it is neither a concept nor a category. It is only a word, “something” that does not have great explanatory value. I think it would be amusing to call this capitalism, whose birth everyone is so eager to locate, “postfeudalism.” This would be entertaining, but would not have any great meaning either. With “words,” a problem may be dodged, but not resolved. And there is something more: in the same way that specialists of European economic history have concentrated their attention essentially on knowledge of cities, on the activities of the great ports, and on international trade, the Americanists have overconcentrated their attention on urban history, the history of mines, ports, and currencies (all of these seen in an extrinsic fashion). And it is obvious that these types of studies automatically lead to the identification of riches and capital. But does capital imply capitalism? The transition seems too abrupt. The feudal lords of the High Middle Ages also had capital the hacendados as well. The problem is that of the nature of the capital: trade, banking, usurious, landed, or industrial. It is only through exact definition of this renowned capital that capitalism itself can be detected, in the sense we give the word today.

Furthermore, I am firmly convinced that it is impossible to speak— for any particular economic space—of “capitalism” (or even “feudalism”), without being precise as to what part of the economic space in question is invested with this capitalism and/or feudalism. In other words, if in a given economic space, (international) commercial life is designated as mercantile capitalism and productive life is accounted feudal, why should we define this space as a whole as “capitalist”? To proceed in this way is to forget that the urban centers represent—in demographic terms—one- or two-tenths of the whole population and that their activity represents only a minimal part of all the transactions (of every type, from monetary exchange to barter pure and simple) that take place at the production level. And even more, this means forgetting that the value of great mining and/or merchant transactions represent only a very small part of the value of all the goods produced—under feudal conditions—in an economic space.

Of course, the problem has been resolved by saying that these urban centers constitute “poles of development.” But this pernicious category— pernicious on account of the ravages that it has wreaked (nearly everywhere in the world: how numerous are cathedrals in the desert that have been created by these poles of development!)—has never explained anything. I remember I was told for years that I was wrong to speak of feudalism in the Italy of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, because there were cities like Venice, Genoa, Florence, Lucca, Livorno, and Ancona that constituted “poles of development.” If this theory had the least basis, there ought to be some coincidence between an economic atlas of medieval Europe and one of Europe today: Venice, Genoa, Bruges, Florence, Seville, and Provins should be dominant centers of the productive and commercial life of the old continent. These are, however, dead cities.

Several times I have alluded to problems of European history. If I have proceeded in this way, I had no intent of creating a comparative history (in which I do not believe), nor to present a sort of general theory of feudalism that would embrace both European and American situations. Quite the contrary: if I have often spoken of Europe, I have done so in order to reach what seems to me to be the central problem of this article. In Hispano-Portuguese America, we find “feudalism,” but it is not the same “feudalism” as in Europe. The measures with which one must judge these two phenomena (similar, but not identical) must be different. What had to be achieved in the American context is what already had been partially achieved in the European context: a differential geography in space and in time.

Certain differences between the two feudalisms are obvious: a) First of all, the Spanish lord who settled in America and who became a feudatario there inherited—at least in the countries having a strong state-controlled structure (Aztec and Inca)—a part of the preexisting institutions: the mita, for example. But it is clear that he distorted them in comparison to what they had been in their earlier context. A similar problem existed in Europe during the High Middle Ages with the relation between the ancient Roman institutions and the young barbarian “laws.”

b) Next, European feudalism passed through at least two phases. The first—that of classic feudalism—is characterized by the fact that in Europe there was, at that time, an unlimited supply of land. Later, this same feudalism had to face up to a limited supply of land. On that point, I believe that England’s being the first to eliminate (or at least limit) feudalism can be explained precisely by the fact that England was the first country in Europe that had to come to terms with the problem of a lack of land, which led to radical changes in its social and economic structures.

American “feudalism,” however, never experienced an unlimited supply of land. 30 Its great problem was that of resolving the dilemma of there being men without land and land without men, which was exactly the problem posed by the end of the Roman Empire and the origins of feudalism. 31

c) This late American feudalism also had to contend with the external “imposition” of capitalism. In other words, the development (or transition) of European feudalism was not influenced by external phenomena. There was an endogenous development only in the nineteenth century was English capitalism able to influence developments in Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.

In brief, the two feudalisms (European and American) existed, but differed. Should this be surprising? Personally, I do not find it any more surprising than the fact that a price, a salary, or a pension in London, Paris, or Florence in the thirteenth century were not the same as a price, a salary, or a pension in these same cities in the eighteenth century or today. One would have to be totally devoid of sociological, economic, and historical knowledge to be “surprised” by these differences. The price of wheat in an economic space in which only 10 percent of the grains consumed pass through the market is one thing, but the price in the same space, if 60 percent of the wheat consumed passes through the market, is another.

The same is true of wages. It is not the wage of a laborer or a mason that matters, but rather the total wages paid in a given economic space. It is obvious that if this total is less than the sum of the value obtained through the agency of different types of forced (compulsivo) labor, the significance of this wage is quite different from that of the wage that we may find in an economy in which the total value of labor receives an equivalent in cash.

To turn to another sector—consider the price of land. In the American context, we find land that has no price because it has no value. What has “value” is not the land, but the building, the plants, the irrigation works, the tools, and—especially—the mass of workers who are tied to it. 32

If we do not keep these realities and differences constantly before us, there is no point in speaking—in the American context—of either capitalism or feudalism in the sense that we give these words in the European context. And on this subject I would like to point out as clearly as possible, that to use feudalism and capitalism in the American context in the Marxian sense of the word is a waste of time. I hope my Marxist friends will not take offense. I would only like to say to them that I do not understand why they so fervently wish to extrapolate the Marxian lesson to continents—such as Africa, Asia, and America—about which Marx knew nothing or very little (and the little he did know derived from colonial experiences of the nineteenth century). I firmly believe that Karl Marx was one of the most extraordinary thinkers in the history of mankind and I find his explanatory schema a prodigious aid in understanding thirty centuries of the history of the Mediterranean basin and much of Europe. But why transform the Capital of Karl Marx into a sort of City of God of Saint Augustine why, in short, make it “Catholic and universal?

Let us speak, then, of feudalism in America. And if we absolutely must look for authorities, let us address ourselves rather to the great European thinkers of the eighteenth century. 33 My proposition is less paradoxical than it seems.

I know quite well that I will be criticized for reducing American feudalism to four elements: (a) an economy without (or with an insufficient) monetary base (b) an economy without (or with insufficient) freedom of access to or withdrawal from the [labor] market (c) the same in the case of the commodity market (d) an economy not supported by a large and dependable interior market.

It may be noted that even from an orthodox Marxist point of view (leaving aside the aberrations of certain alleged Marxists) characteristics of this sort lead to the definition of a feudal economy. But this—as I have already said—is hardly of any interest to me. What is more important in my view—in examining the economy and society of America—is to measure to what degree a colonial economy existed.

It may well be objected 34 that the natural economy does not constitute a “theoretical explanation.” I do not doubt it. Since I have no ambition to be a “theorist” or a “methodologist,” I find no problem in that. It is my belief, although it is a commonplace one, that the degree of intensity of a natural economy in a given economic space constitutes an excellent ther mometer for measuring the degree of the existence of feudalism. The thermometer is certainly not an instrument of great theoretical precision, but it is certainly useful (at any rate, more useful than wild, so-called “theoretical” imaginings). More important are the objections that might come from a Marc Bloch 35 or a Fernand Braudel. 36

As for Marc Bloch, I must say that I have always been on the side of A. Dopsch, 37 for the following reasons.

First, Marc Bloch has always concentrated his attention and his examples on the cities, the great abbeys, the great feudal areas. He never tells us, however, what is happening in the economic space as a whole.

He never poses the question of different social levels in the circulation of different denominations of coin. A sequin or a denier—for him—are “currency.” But in fact, we now know that it was not so.

Finally, he in no way takes into account the fact that in the medieval monetary system (and this is true until the French Revolution) there existed a currency of account and a system of internal exchange. And the definitions 38 and conclusions 39 of F. Braudel do not seem any more convincing to me. For I have the feeling that several problems are purely and simply being evaded. Why are these worlds “apparently” distant? What is drawing them together? And why “economic symbiosis”? Can we indeed speak of symbiosis? For my part, I would speak rather of extremely violent collisions. Is there truly symbiosis between Florence and the Florentine contado? Or between Spain and America? Between these two worlds there existed enormous differences of voltage. To seek to find some possibility of symbiosis would be rather as if a houseowner were to try to steal current for his house (at 220 volts) from a high tension cable.

Of course, contacts between the two worlds (monetary and natural) exist. The result of these contacts is the crushing victory of the first over the second.

After posing these problems of natural economy, one can once again try to reach a conclusion. It seems to me, therefore, that the problem is not whether the equation: natural economy = feudalism, is legitimate. Rather, as it is noted in the American context, we witness the fact that natural economy—at the level of production—constitutes the terrain upon which flourish forms of social and economic organization that can be defined as feudal (with the reservations and limitations that I have brought out above). 40

Translation of this article was made possible by a grant from the Conference on Latin American History of the American Historical Association.

See Ruggiero Romano, “Vincenzo Russo e gli estremisti della república napoletana del 1799,” in Atti dell’Academia de Scienze Morali e Politiche della società Nazionale de Scienze, Lettere ed Arti in Napoli (Naples), 64 (1952), 3-4 also republished in Romano, Napoli: Dal viceregno al regno (Turin, 1976), pp. 265-317.

Vincenzo Cuoco, Saggio storico sulla rivoluzione napolentana del 1799 (Milan, 1801 German ed., 1805 French ed., 1807).

André Gunder Frank completely lacks this “minimal knowledge.” I would refer the reader to my essay, “Sous-développement culturel: À propos d’André Gunder Frank,” Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto (Geneva), 24 (1971), 271-279.

Stuart Piggott, Ancient Europe from the Beginnings of Agriculture to Classical Antiquity (London, 1965).

Huguette and Pierre Chaunu, Séville et l’Atlantique. 1504-1650, 8 vols. (Paris, 1955-57), Partie statistique.

A. García-Baquero González, Cádiz y el Atlántico (1717-1778), 2 vols. (Seville. 1976).

Giovanni Villani, Cronica, 2 vols. (Trieste, 1857-58), I: 420.

Of the extensive bibliography, see A. Tanodi, M. Fajardo, and M. Dávila. Libro de mercedes de tierras de Córdoba de 1573 a 1600 (Córdoba, Arg., 1958) C. Frene A. Fonseca, “Sesmarias no Brasil," in Dieionário de História de Portugal (n.p., n.d.). See also the impressive work by C. Freire A. Fonseca. “Economia natural e colonização do Brasil: Estudios das doações de sesmarias de Pernambuco, 1534-1843 (M.A. thesis, Univ. of Río de Janeiro, 1974).

See, for example, Alfred Métraux, L’île de Pâques (Paris, 1965), pp. 65-68.

A classic work is Silvio Zavala, La encomienda indiana (Mexico City, 1973), 2d ed.

Another classic work is José Antonio Saco, Historia de la esclavitud de la raza africana en el nuevo mundo y en especial en los países hispano americanos (vols. 4 and 5 of his Historia de la esclavitud desde los tiempos más remotos) (Havana, 1938).

In Julián Gutiérrez Altamirano’s encomienda decree dated June 3, 1566, the obligation “tener armas y caballo y servir a Su Majestad en la guerra” is clearly stated found in José Toribio Medina, Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de Chile, 2d ser., 6 vols. (Santiago, Chile, 1956-63), I: 64.

Germán Colmenares, Cali: Terratenientes, mineros y comerciantes (Cali, 1975), pp. 43-49.

Ricardo Donoso and Fanor Velasco, La propiedad austral (Santiago, Chile, 1970).

Ruggiero Romano, “Sens et limites de l’ ‘industrie’ minière en Amérique espagnole du xvi e au xviii e siècle, Journal de la Société des Américanistes (Paris), 59 (1970), 132.

E.g., that of Engenho Sergipe do Conde, which can be seen in the beautiful edition published by the Instituto do Açúcar e de Alcool, Documentos para a historia de açúcar. Vol. II. Engenho Sergipe do Conde, Livre de Contas (1622-1653) (Río de Janeiro, 1956). See also my preface to the Italian edition of Celso Furtado, La formazione economica del Brasile (Turin, 1970).

Pablo Macera, Mapas coloniales de haciendas cuzqueñas (Lima, 1968), p. ex.

See Benjamín Vicuña MacKenna, El libro de la piata (Santiago, Chile, 1882), pp. 118-119.

Charles Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1810 (Stanford, 1964), pp. 231, 354, 384.

See José María Arguedas, El sueño del pongo—Cuenta quechua (Lima, 1965). There is another edition of this work, published in Santiago, Chile, in 1970, with a record. The reading is done by José María Arguedas, who had an unforgettable voice.

See the very important (and little known) anonymously written, Bureau International du Travail, Les populations aborigènes: Conditions de vie et de travail des populations autochtones des pays indépendants (Geneva, 1953), esp. pp. 221-296, 329-444. There is also a Spanish-language edition.

Jean Meuvret, “Circulation monétaire et utilisation économique de la monnaie dans la France du xvi e et du xvii e siècle,” Etudes d’histoire moderne et contemporaine (Paris), 1 (1947), 15-28 also republished in Jean Meuvret, Etudes d’histoire économique: Recueil d’articles (Paris, 1971).

There has been little work on this topic and there is no comprehensive book about the problem. Still, I would like to mention the important works of Antonio García, “El salariado natural y el salariado capitalista en la historia de América,” América Indígena (Mexico City) 8:4 (1948), 249-287 C. Garzón-Maceda, Economía del Tucumán: Economía natural y economía monetaria. Rentas eclesiásticas (Córdoba, 1965) C. Castro, "Economie monétaire et économie naturelle au Mexique dans la deuxième moitié du xviii e siècle” (Paper. L’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, VI e Section) E. Tandeter, “El papel de la moneda macuquina en la circulación monetaria rioplatense,” Cuadernos de Numismática (Buenos Aires) 4:14 (1975). 1-11.

See Ruggiero Romano, Una economía colonial: Chile en el siglo xviii (Buenos Aires, 1965), p. 36 and bibliography.

On social and economic problems posed by the tokens, see M. Segall, Biografía social de la ficha salario,” Mapocho (Santiago), 2:2 (1964), 97-131.

See, for example, R. E. Burchard, “Coca y trueque de alimentos” in G. Alberti and E. Mayer, eds., Reciprocidad e intercambio en los Andes peruanos (Lima, 1974), pp. 209-251.

See M. Godelier, “Trasizione," Enciclopedia Einaudi (Turin, 1981), forthcoming.

See my “Acerca de la ‘oferta ilimitada’ de tierras: A propósito de América central y meridional” in Alberto Flores Galindo and O. Plaza, eds., Haciendas y plantaciones en el Perú (Lima, 1975), pp. 1-7.

See L. Cracco Raggini, “Uomini senza terra e terra senza uomini nell Italia antica, Quaderni di Sociologia Rurale (Rome), 3 (1963), 279-291 and P. Jones, Economia e società nell’Italia medievale (Turin, 1980), esp. pp. 249-273.

See a splendid manuscript in the Biblioteca Nacional (Lima), no. C3782, that treats the region of Paucartambo (undated, but probably 1711). In it a hacendado complains about finding himself once again “sin jente y aperos, pues son los que dan balor a las posesiones."

See F. Venturi, “Tra Scozia e Russia," Poccия/Russia, 1 (1981). n.p.

As has done Ciro F. S. Cardoso.

Marc Bloch, Economie-nature ou économie-argent: Un Pseudo-dilemme, 2 vols. (Paris, 1973), II, 868-877.

A. Dopsch, Naturalwirtschaft und Geldwirtschaft in der Veltgeschichte (Vienna, 1930).

F. Braudel, Capitalismo e civiltà materiale (Turin, 1977).

The books and articles cited in the preceding notes do not constitute, and cannot constitute, a complete bibliography. An entire group of names is missing (from F. Chevalier to A. Jara, from Herbert Klein to D. A. Brading, from H, Bonilla to M. Burga, and so many others). I would not want the reader to be left with the idea that there is nothing more to read on this subject.

Population in Quantity Theory

It is sometimes imagined that the Quantity Theory of Money fails to take account of perhaps the most powerful of economic factors – demographic change. The simple relationships between land and labour, and between mouths to feed and hands to work, rightly dominate our understanding of pre-industrial societies. Compared with these fundamental realities, monetary factors can only seem secondary. Indeed, compared with the inescapable realities of birth and death, money and prices look like superficial considerations. They are, however, powerful economic factors. Moreover, the Quantity Theory does take account of demographic change, which is included in the Transactions element of the Fisher version, or in the Y or gdp in the Cambridge version, since any attempt to estimate medieval gdp depends above all on a prior estimate of population.

However, the introduction of population into Quantity Theory analysis has surprising results. It was Wordie who first pointed out that rising population, by increasing Transactions (or gdp ), would tend to deflate prices rather than inflate them. 47 A larger population creates more transactions, (a larger gdp ), which makes greater demands on the available money stock. Moreover, recent work on English economic growth has established that output grows as much as or more than population, while John Langdon and James Masschaele saw entrepreneurial activity driving population growth. 48 If these insights are sound, “supply” in the form of increased economic output exceeded “demand” generated by growing population. In short, rising population increases production more than it increases demand. The simple assumption that rising population raises prices by increasing demand more than supply turns out to be mistaken. Instead, it could be argued that rising M inflates prices, while moderate inflation promotes economic growth, 49 which in turn permits demographic growth. 50 Thus money, and prices expressed in money, though intrinsically far less significant than the vital driving forces of life and death, do nevertheless directly influence the great demographic and social realities.

Economists must perhaps share some of the blame for the misconception that monetary effects are not “real”. They often go to great lengths attempting to strip out monetary effects, in order to reveal the “real” underlying factors. Thus nominal prices – the sums in which prices and debts were actually recorded and paid – are sometimes set aside in favour of “real” prices. Such conversions are perfectly legitimate in order to compare prices between different countries or periods, if the nominal prices are deflated or inflated by the appropriate cost of living index. However, the widespread practice of converting nominal prices in line with coins’ intrinsic silver content is fundamentally flawed. 51 In the first place, converting to silver weight assumes that silver provides a reliable, constant yardstick. In fact, the value of silver varies over time and from place to place. Secondly, such conversions are generally based on the legal weight of freshly minted coins, although actual transactions usually involved coins of variable weight, which could fall significantly below the legal weight of newly minted coins. 52 Converting sums of money to their silver weight equivalent is thus historically mistaken. 53

Modern scholars’ emphasis on the intrinsic content of coinage is also misleading in that it fails to recognize the role of medieval governments in setting the value of currency. 54 Governments – the king or prince, often in agreement with Parliament and with the advice of merchants, goldsmiths, and mint staff – first established the quantity of coin to be struck from a pound or mark weight of pure bullion (the gross mint price). Thus a monetary pound (£) of 240 pence was to be struck from a pound weight (lb) of silver. On each pound the crown took a profit (seigniorage). The cost of actually making the coins (mintage) was also deducted, leaving the rest (the net mint price) to be returned to the supplier of the bullion. However, the gross mint price depended fundamentally on the weight and fineness (purity) of the coins. If government decided to strike slightly lighter coins, more than 240 pence could be made from each pound weight. In the same way, if the coins were struck of slightly less pure silver, then a pound weight of pure metal would yield more than 240 pence.

The government determined the weight and purity of the coins, but it also decreed their nominal face value. Over the course of the later Middle Ages the English government halved the weight of the penny from about 22 grains of sterling silver to just under 11 grains, 55 but the nominal face value of each issue remained unchanged at a penny, 240 of them still making a monetary pound sterling (£). Since prices, rents, and debts were all denominated in nominal pounds (£), shillings (s), and pence (d, from denarius), 56 these successive weight reductions meant sellers, landlords, and creditors had to accept less silver weight in their transactions than they had received before the coinage alterations.

There are various reasons why they did so. First, the strength of the English monarchy and its long-standing regalian right to control the coinage stretched back over centuries. Foreign coin was effectively excluded, and any short-lived feudal mints had been brought back under central royal control. Parliament attempted to exert some measure of influence, occasionally extracting an undertaking from the crown not to alter the money again without parliamentary agreement, but the royal prerogative remained paramount. The law consistently supported the crown’s ruling on the coinage and enforced it in the courts. Second, these occasional reductions in the weight of the currency responded to a recognized shortage of coin in the country at large. Weight reductions permitted the production of more coin from the same amount of bullion. Third, the value of silver throughout Europe was rising over the course of the later Middle Ages as silver production from the mines went into decline. The weight reductions effected by the English mint did no more than recognize the rising value of the metal. 57 Moreover, these weight reductions were so moderate and so gradual that much old coin had already become worn in decades of use, so that the newly decreed weights were often close to those of many of the old coins already in use. Finally, the acceptance of coin at face value without weighing each transaction was established practice, and extremely convenient. No doubt sellers scrutinized the coin they were offered carefully, and visibly clipped money could certainly be rejected. Also, gold coin was more likely to be individually weighed, since its high value would justify the time and trouble taken. But for the most part, by well-established custom, silver was accepted by tale, that is, at face value.

Yet perhaps the most telling evidence that the English weight reductions were widely accepted is provided by the behaviour of prices. As a rather puzzled Thorold Rogers observed, the reductions in the weight of the English currency did not prompt any discernible rise in prices. 58 Even though sellers were required by law to accept the new money at face value, they could easily and silently have enhanced their prices to restore their silver receipts to their former weight. No such price response is apparent.

In this respect, the English experience differed somewhat from that elsewhere in much of Europe. Continental (and Scottish) debasements reduced not only the weight of the coinage, but also the purity of the coinage metal. 59 They also occurred more frequently. It is arguable that while English kings met the costs of government and war from the proceeds of taxation, continental rulers resorted to fiscal debasements. This did far more than simply recognize the rising market price of coinage metals. More extreme debasements generated greater resistance, and the palpable injustice of settling strong money debts in weak money was recognized in continental courts.

Heavier debasements in Scotland and on the continent did inflate prices, though this effect is often difficult to distinguish from other factors bearing on prices, most obviously the annual harvest. The effects of debasement also took time to develop: John Munro has suggested a two-year time lag. 60 Consequently any price changes were unlikely to be fully in proportion to the debasement. By contrast, exchange rates do respond quickly to debasement. News of published mint prices spread quickly abroad, and merchants adjusted international exchange rates accordingly. 61 Such debasement acted exactly like a modern devaluation, making exports cheaper but imports dearer.

For all these reasons, government decisions about the mint price offered for coinage metals could have a profound, though not always proportional, impact on the economy as a whole. Sometimes the consequences of government decisions were not fully appreciated. Altering mint prices could disrupt the relative valuation of gold and silver, prompting a flow of one metal into the country and a loss of the other metal to neighbouring mints, which valued it more highly. For example, it is noteworthy that the English mints often attracted one metal at the expense of very low production rates for the other. 62 In the later Middle Ages England usually attracted gold at the expense of silver, resulting in a marked imbalance in the currency as a whole.

The relatively plentiful provision of gold has prompted the observation that England’s total money supply in the later Middle Ages seems to have been fully adequate for the needs of the much-reduced post-plague population. 63 This in turn would throw doubt on the argument that the low prices characteristic of England’s later medieval recession were driven by monetary shortage. However, it may be that the extreme shortage of silver coinage could have depressed prices, despite the availability of gold. Only 24.4 per cent by value of the total documented English mint output of the period 1344 to 1509 was in silver, while the remaining 75.6 per cent was in gold. 64 Although gold fractions were struck, even the quarter noble had a face value of 1s 8d., five times the typical post-plague daily wage of 4d. From the 1470s the angel replaced the noble as the gold coin worth 6s 8d., but the half angel, worth 3s 4d, was then the smallest gold denomination. Moreover, the supply of gold fractions was probably much more limited, since the terms of the mintmasters’ remuneration favoured the production of higher-value pieces. This bias in favour of striking higher value coins also affected the silver issues, in that groats and half groats were more readily struck than pence or halfpennies. The farthing disappeared altogether as successive weight reductions in the coinage made them too small to be conveniently handled.

Unlike most of the rest of Europe, in the Middle Ages England did not strike coin in billon (i.e., heavily debased silver) or copper. Indeed scholars on the continent have argued that an adequate provision of smaller denominations was essential for the deeper monetization of the economy. 65 Although English historians would probably argue that later medieval England was in fact thoroughly monetized, the structure of English denominations was certainly not favourable to the conduct of most day-to-day transactions.

In this connection, it is helpful to recall that Maynard Keynes preferred a version of Quantity Theory which replaced estimated Velocity with its inverse, “demand for money to hold”, or k. This drew attention to the effect of money withdrawn from the active money stock through savings, hoarding, or simply holding it ready for opportunistic purchases. In periods of economic or political crisis the amount of such ”withdrawn” money will have increased, reducing liquidity for the rest of the economy. It may also be observed that some types of money are more likely to be withdrawn than others, and that in particular gold coins may have circulated less actively than silver. 66 In terms of the oft-cited functions of money, gold serves well as a store of value, while silver has historically provided a better means of exchange. Indeed, some recent research on the early modern period suggests that silver supplies drive prices, rather than gold. 67 This may help to explain the prolonged periods of sluggish prices which are notable particularly in the 15th and 18th centuries, when gold dominated the money supply almost to the exclusion of silver.

Gold coins did not circulate as much as silver coins. Surviving examples typically exhibit significantly less wear than silver. The historical evidence is thus consistent with Maynard Keynes’s ideas about “money to hold” as distinct from that which was spent. The Cambridge version of the Quantity Theory introduced the concept of k, demand for money to hold, as the reciprocal of V in the Fisher version. 68 Money withdrawn from circulation was not available to service transactions, so the effective money stock was less than the total money stock. Hoard evidence indicates clearly that larger denominations wherever available were preferred for saving, and gold coins were larger denominations par excellence. Historical evidence suggests that Henry vii , for example, accumulated a huge quantity of gold coin effectively withdrawn from the circulating currency. 69

The greater importance of silver as a circulating medium may explain why it appears to have exercised a greater influence on the behaviour of prices than gold. This could also throw light on the causes of the late medieval recession. The failure of prices and the birth rate to recover for some 150 years after the outbreak of the Black Death poses one of the great puzzles of the later medieval English economy. Since real wages for the great mass of the population were at a historically high level, it has been difficult to explain why this apparent prosperity did not translate into rising population levels. John Hatcher recognized this problem, and suggested that high real wages would only raise living standards and birth rates if work was in fact plentifully available, which he doubted. 70 Yet Christopher Dyer remains convinced that 15th-century living standards were in fact high, in which case the failure of population and the economy to grow still requires explanation. 71

However, if prices were depressed by the shortage of silver, this could explain the reluctance of landowners to extend themselves. Moderately rising prices are needed to encourage entrepreneurial activity, which generates growth. In this way prices do not merely reflect the state of the economy: they actually help to drive it. Money, in turn, actively influenced prices. Annual price variation was, of course, above all the result of harvest variation, but monetary factors could and did trigger longer-term price shifts, which can be discerned over decades. Regression analyses comparing wheat prices and yields have shown that similar yields over the 13th to 15th centuries could have resulted in significantly different prices reflecting, at least in part, the availability of, especially, silver coin. 72

Historians have long appreciated the importance of prices for economic history, but some have been strangely reluctant to recognize how money has influenced prices. Writing in 1986, John Day observed that even French historians who venerate Marc Bloch were curiously blind to his work on monetary history. 73 Nor is such blindness exclusively French, for the study of money has remained a rather specialist topic among historians more widely. Perhaps the technicalities of the subject obscure the extent to which money has influenced the lives and livelihoods of men, women, and families of all classes throughout Europe. The hardship and dignity of centuries of labour has the power to move historians the passion which still warms the pages of R.H. Tawney’s Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century can inspire the dream of social justice 74 the vision and humanity of Fernand Braudel’s picture of ordinary life can evoke sympathy and understanding for our forebears. 75 But weight standards and gold – silver ratios, die-studies and mint output figures do not quicken the pulse in quite the same way. Nevertheless, this chapter has tried to show that the dry technicalities of medieval money did bear directly upon the life chances of millions, and that a better understanding of that still has the power to change lives today.

Grierson, “Commerce in the dark ages” was highly influential, though see now Naismith, Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England, which provides a finely balanced assessment of the various uses of coin and fully recognizes its dominant monetary purpose without discounting its other social and political roles. Naismith’s comments may be applied broadly, mutatis mutandis, before and after his specified period.

Le Goff, Money and the Middle Ages, while recognizing the widespread use of money in this period, retained the suspicion that coin in the documents might really only be “money of account”. See, for example, pp. 29–30, 79, and 149.

Postan, “The rise of a money economy”, pp. 31–32.

Lawson, “The collection of danegeld and heregeld in the reigns of Aethelred ii and Cnut” Lawson, “‘Those stories look true’” Lawson, “Danegeld and heregeld once more” Gillingham, “The most precious jewel in the English crown” and Gillingham, “Chronicles and coins as evidence for levels of tribute and taxation in late tenth- and early eleventh-century England”.

Lennard, Rural England, 1086–1135, pp. 115, 120, and 176–80.

Sellwood, “Medieval minting techniques”, pp. 57–65.

Metcalf, “How large was the Anglo-Saxon currency?”, pp. 475–82.

Statisticians have devised increasingly sophisticated methods over recent years, but at its simplest the method recognizes that the more die-duplication which is observed in a particular issue, the closer the surviving sample comes to representing the total number of dies originally used. Conversely, the absence of die-duplication suggests the original number of dies was likely to have been much greater. All these methods offer a range of upper and lower limits within which the original number of dies used is likely to lie. See Esty, “Estimation of the size of a coinage”, pp. 185–215 and Esty, “How to estimate the original number of dies and coverage of a sample”, pp. 359–64.

Resistance to the idea of estimating original coin output from die-study is particularly strong among some ancient historians, while conversely documentary evidence from the later Middle Ages providing specific information about dies used and totals of coin produced confirms that very large numbers of coins were struck per die. However, documented output per die did vary widely: mints remote from die-cutting centres continued to use dies for longer, and we may assume that strikers of small issues were more likely to underuse dies than large ones. See M. Allen, “Medieval English die-output”, pp. 39–49.

Stray finds are being collected in the Netherlands on the Numis database: http://www.dnb.nl/over-dnb/nationale-numismatische-collectie/numis/index.jsp . For England, see the Portable Antiquities Scheme ( pas ) data online, http://finds.org.uk , together with the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds, http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/dept/coins/emc . The collection of evidence of single-finds requires legal tolerance of the use of metal-detectors, albeit within prescribed limits. In countries where metal-detecting is totally prohibited, sites such as eBay suggest that single-finds continue to be recovered unrecorded.

However, D.M. Metcalf draws attention to the widespread dispersal of numerous “thrymsa/shilling” finds, which closely resemble the distribution patterns of sceatta finds. Metcalf, “Thrymsas and sceattas and the balance of payments”. For pale gold thrymsas, see Metcalf, Thrymsas and Sceattas, vol. 1, pp. 42–47.

This question might also affect the interpretation of later medieval finds, including varied metals and denominations.

Where M is the money stock, V is income velocity, P is the price level, T is the level of transactions, k is the demand for money to hold, and Y represents gdp . Fisher, The Purchasing Power of Money Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, pp. 419–21 Flynn, “Use and misuse of the quantity theory of money in early modern historiography”, pp. 382–418. The theory is thus about more than just money and prices, but embraces the whole economy and the nature of monetary circulation.

Mayhew. “Modelling medieval monetisation”, pp. 68–71.

Snooks, “The dynamic role of the market in the Anglo-Norman economy and beyond, 1086–1300” Mayhew, “Modelling medieval monetisation” Dyer, “A note on the calculation of gdp for 1086 and 1300” Walker, “National income in domesday England” and Harvey, Domesday, pp. 162–65.

Mayhew, “Population, money supply and the velocity of circulation in England, 1300–1700”, pp. 244 and 252–55.

Note that Income Velocity records the number of times the whole money stock would need to turn over, not the frequency of money payments in the economy.

Wordie, “Deflationary factors in the Tudor price rise”, pp. 32–70.

gdp is conventionally expressed by the symbol Y. For the second variation, the replacement of V by the symbol k, representing “demand for money to hold”, see below, p.225, note 68.

Broadberry et al., British Economic Growth.

Bairoch, “Estimations du revenue national dans les sociétés occidentales pre-industrielles et au XIXe siècle”.

Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, 1259–1793 Farmer, “Prices and Wages [1042–1350]” Farmer, “Prices and Wages, 1350–1500” Phelps Brown and Hopkins, “Seven centuries of the prices of consumables” R. Allen, https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/people/sites/allen-research-pages/ G. Clark, iish List of Datafiles of Historical Prices and Wages, http://www.iisg.nl/hpw .

The initial reluctance of the European Central Bank to employ Quantitative Easing, in contrast to the US and the UK, created an interesting real-life experiment. It became clear that growth returned to those economies which did employ QE. Eventually the European Central Bank followed suit and growth returned there too. Of course the real-life experiment could not exclude other possible extraneous factors. Nor is it certain that the financial technique chosen to deliver QE was necessarily ideal.

For the coin find data compared over centuries see pas database for silver mining see Spufford, Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe, pp. 109–31.

For the commercial revolution, see Britnell and Campbell, A Commercialising Economy for increasing monetization, see Mayhew, “Modelling medieval monetisation”.

Sawyer, “Wealth of England” and Sawyer, The Wealth of Anglo-Saxon England.

Metcalf, “Thrymsas and sceattas” Metcalf, Thrymsas and Sceattas, vol. 2, for continental sceattas Op den Velde and Metcalf, Sceattas of Series D and Metcalf and Op den Velde, Sceattas of Series E.

Lloyd, The English Wool Trade in the Middle Ages and Lloyd, “Overseas trade and the English money supply in the fourteenth century”.

Allen, Mints and Money in Medieval England, appendix C, pp. 404–24 and Challis, A New History of the Royal Mint, appendix 1, pp. 673–98. Though the English mint data is probably the best, much is also available for western Europe. For the Low Countries, see especially the extensive bibliography of John Munro in Armstrong, Elbl, and Elbl, Money, Markets and Trade, pp. 11–40. For France, see Bompaire and Dumas, Numismatique Médiévale Miskimin, Money, Prices and Foreign Exchange in Fourteenth-Century France Miskimin, Money and Power in Fifteenth-Century France Sussman, “Missing bullion or missing documents” Miskimin, “Missing bullion or missing documents: a rejoinder” and Day, “The great bullion famine of the fifteenth century” for a later medieval European overview. Note that Sussman is sceptical about bullion famine.

Mayhew, “Numismatic evidence” Allen, Mints and Money, pp. 317–45. Allen’s most recently revised estimates appear in “Sterling area”.

Allen, “Sterling area”. Thus Allen’s peak year of 1319 would see his “English” estimate £1.867m to £2.414m reduced to about £1.6m to £2m for England alone.

M. Allen and Oddie, “Revised estimates of the English silver currency, 1282–1351”, pp. 245–52.

Allen, Mints and Money, pp. 332–36.

Mayhew, “Quantity theory in historical perspective”, pp. 62–96. Mayhew’s annual money stock estimates after the Black Death generally fall within or close to Allen’s numbers, though his figures here for before the event look too low. See also Mayhew, “Prices in England”.

Palma, “Reconstruction of annual money supply over the long run”.

For mint output, see note 30 above.

Watson, “Back to gold–and silver”, pp. 1–34.

Mate, “The role of gold coinage in the English economy”, argues for the profound significance of the introduction of gold coins in England. For further consideration of the implications of England’s bias towards gold coinage, see below, pp. 224–5.

Challis, Royal Mint, appendix 1. The 1420s reveal a noteworthy exception, when London and the English mint in Calais struck very large amounts of silver which came to the English mints in flight from the runaway debasements afflicting the Flemish, French, and Burgundian mints.

For Parliamentary petitions, see Allen, Mints and Money, pp. 360–64. For the shortage of pence or money generally, see, for example, Kirby, The Plumpton Letters and Papers,. pp. 34–35 (no. 11): “Impedit omne forum carentia denariorum”. For similar references in the Paston Letters, see also Mayhew, “The monetary background to the Yorkist recoinage of 1464–71”, pp. 71–72.

Postan, Medieval Trade and Finance, ch. 1 and 2, remain invaluable introductions. See also Gaspar Feliu, this volume, for credit in Catalonia.

The use of tallies was a regular feature of the Exchequer’s accounting system with the sheriffs: see Dialogus, xliv Jenkinson, “Exchequer tallies” and Jenkinson, “Medieval tallies, public and private”. But they were unpopular with those who were paid with them: see Mayhew, “Yorkist recoinage”, p. 70, citing Piers Plowman and Maddicott, “The English peasantry and the demands of the crown”, p. 12.

Dyer, A Country Merchant, p. 98. For the Borromei, see Bolton, Money in the Medieval English Economy, pp. 246, 285–87, and 290–93.

Nightingale, “Monetary contraction and mercantile credit in later medieval England” Nightingale, “Knights and merchants” Nightingale, “The English parochial clergy as investors and creditors in the first half of the fourteenth century” and Nightingale, “Gold, credit and mortality”.

Bolton, “Was there a ‘crisis of credit’ in fifteenth-century England?” Bolton, “Reply to Pamela Nightingale’s ‘A Crisis of Credit’” Briggs, Credit and Village Society in Fourteenth-Century England Stevens, “London creditors and the fifteenth-century depression”.

Wordie, “Deflationary factors”, p. 66 cited by Mayhew, “Prices in England”, p. 23.

Both cited by Mayhew, “Prices in England”, pp. 22–25.

Note, however, that rising population may restrain wages, despite rising prices. Such hardship imposed on the labouring class may eventually bear down on aggregate effective demand.

For example, Robert Allen’s otherwise invaluable databases of international prices and wages succumb to the temptation to offer simplistic conversions of values according to theoretical silver weight. Allen, Consumer Price Indexes Allen, “The great divergence in European wages and prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War” and Allen, “The high wage economy and the Industrial Revolution”, esp. pp. 9–10.

Although gold coins in payment may have been weighed, silver coins generally passed at their nominal value unweighed unless they were visibly clipped.

Mayhew, “Money in England from the middle ages to the nineteenth century”.

Desan, Making Money, demonstrates clearly the extent to which money is the product of government action. For the continental perspective, see Fox and Ernst, Money in the Western Legal Tradition.

The penny of about 22 grains was reduced to 18 grains in 1351, 15 grains in 1412, 12 grains in 1464, and under 11 grains in 1526. See Challis, Royal Mint Allen, Mints and Money and, for a tabular presentation of the detail of the process, Hotson, Respectable Banking.

The mark of 13s 4d (=160 pence) was also commonly used.

Indeed, it could be argued that the English mint responded too little and too late to the rising price of metal. See Mayhew, “Monetary policy”.

Rogers, Six Centuries of Work and Wages, pp. 341–42. Rogers notes that Adam Smith saw no significant rise in prices after these weight reductions in the coinage.

A third method of debasement also sometimes employed was to enhance the nominal value of existing coins.

Munro, “Technology and economics of coinage debasements”, pp. 23 and 25 and table 1.2. Information about debasement took time to filter through, while new coins also had to spread through the currency. If debasement merely reflected the rising price of bullion it might not result in price change at all. Most obviously variable harvests make discerning price changes attributable to debasement highly complex.

See Spufford, “Debasement of the coinage”, pp. 63–86. The falling exchange rate would raise the cost of imported goods. Spufford found that both the exchange rate and consumer prices responded to the net mint price for bullion offered to merchants, rather than to the gross mint price, which would have revealed the actual fineness and weight of the new issues.

See the mint output figures, note 30 above.

In comparison, silver made up 43.4 per cent of the total currency in the period 1509–1542 and 64.1 percent in 1559–1649. Mayhew, “Prices in England”, p. 28, table 4. See also Martin Allen’s assessment of the dwindling share of silver in the fourteenth-century currency in “Transformation of the English coinage”, table 9.1.

Lucassen, “Deep monetization and the payment of wages in Eurasia ca. 1000–1950”, defines it as requiring “a substantial (per capita equal to between five and ten times the prevailing hourly wage) stock of currencies in circulation, consisting of denominations equalling the value of one hour or less of waged work”.

Medieval silver coins are typically much more worn in circulation than gold coins, suggesting they had a more active role in the currency. Mayhew, “Quantity theory of money”. It is generally true that lower-denomination coins and notes become more worn in use than higher denominations. Even today dollar bills and five-pound notes become much more worn than higher-value notes.

Hotson and Mills, “London’s market for bullion and specie in the eighteenth century” and Casson and Casson, “Modelling the medieval economy”.

In her Oxford Master’s dissertation, Katherine Ball contrasted the very large sums believed to have been held in the royal Treasury with our current estimates of the total English money stock. She points out that Tudor specialists are increasingly confident that Henry held over £1 million in hand in the early years of the 16th century.

Dyer, “A golden age rediscovered”.

Mayhew, “Money and prices” and Mayhew, “The circulation of money and the behaviour of prices in medieval and early modern England”.

Day, “L’histoire de la monnaie dans les écrits de Marc Bloch”, pp. 271–72.

Tawney, The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century.

Braudel, Civilisation and Capitalism.

Thinking about the Symbolism of Money: Law and Religion

As noted above, money was everywhere in medieval society even if coins came and went. Law-codes promulgated in the post-Roman kingdoms of western Europe rated legions of infractions in monetary terms, including damage to body parts down to individual toenails and fingernails. 61 Payments in res valentes – “goods to the equivalent value” – were still thought of in terms of standardized denominations in gold and silver. 62 The most prevalent system was that of pounds, shillings, and pence, which originated in early medieval Francia and survived in one form or another until the 1970s. Many other methods of rating value were also tied notionally to quantities of precious metal, some of which were represented by coins. Others looked to different standards of value: early medieval Irish laws used slaves and cattle rated by age and gender, 63 while standardized lengths of fabric fulfilled this role in later medieval Iceland. 64 In all areas, the relationships of different coins, metals, commodities, and units of account could be positively mind-boggling. The advent of gold and more diverse silver denominations in the 13th century enabled coined money to play a larger role, though the variety and instability of currency still posed an ongoing challenge. 65 The central point is that thought in terms of money was ubiquitous, and had been since before the beginning of the Middle Ages.

As a fundamental principle in society, money factored into larger concepts of organization in a range of ways. It was closely associated with notions of structure and order. Each individual had his or her own monetary price, varied by class and gender, to be paid as compensation to the family by the killer in case of death. 66 Cassiodorus (d. c.585) drew a comparison between the number of denarii in a solidus and the number of years in the age of the world. 67 In his laws and other writings from late Anglo-Saxon England, Archbishop Wulfstan (d. 1023) associated proper regulation of coinage with morality and stability in a God-fearing kingdom. 68 More pragmatically, large-scale reorganization of money often went hand in hand with adjustments to systems of weights and measures, as in Charlemagne’s strictures laid down at the council of Frankfurt in 794. 69 The treatment of money in legal texts from across the Middle Ages underscored its integral role in society, and the interest rulers had in its regulation. Although some texts were focused solely on money, they commonly treated it alongside urban and trading customs, giving an important clue to what associations money had. Numerous charters of the Ottonian and Salian eras granted local rulers in the Reich rights over markets, tolls, and minting in a given location. 70

A central concern raised in these charters and other documents was who should profit from the coinage and by how much. A detailed set of agreements from mid-11th-century Barcelona records the payment (in grain) and other conditions expected from successive mintmasters to whom the count farmed out coining operations. 71 These texts carefully spelt out that the moneyers were to maintain the standards of the coinage as established by customary usage. In the 12th century, a new form of legal stipulation emerged in parts of what is now France and northern Spain, in which rulers pledged to maintain the coinage at its traditional standard in return for a levy on other goods to offset the profit he or she would have made by debasing it. In one early example from Catalonia issued in 1118, the stability of the coinage was just one element of a more general peace which the payment was raised to secure later, the tax was tied more specifically to the coinage. 72 But probably the most abiding concern related to the monetary system that emerged in legal discourse was that of standards and their preservation. Any infringement of the integrity of the coinage – including clipping and similar crimes as well as forgery – was tantamount to undermining the ruler’s own authority, and carried appropriately heavy penalties. In 10th-century England, King Æthelstan (924/925–939) stipulated that a moneyer caught issuing defective coin would lose a hand and it would be erected over the mint building. 73 Key English legal compilations of the 12th and 13th centuries (including Glanvill and Bracton) built on the Anglo-Saxon foundations to include forgery among crimes of lèse-majesté which incurred capital or similarly severe punishments. 74 How often these commands were actually enacted is unclear, but in 1125 Henry i (1100–35) had a large number of moneyers mutilated for (allegedly) producing debased coin. 75

This bond between money and legal authority held fast across the Middle Ages: rule of law underpinned the use of money, especially as the reach of the latter extended and the range of denominations and instruments expanded. 76 Enforcing payments and respect for currency in a time of fast-paced change was a challenge both to users and legislators, with the interests of the two sometimes clashing sharply. England in the late 13th century was faced with a dangerous monetary situation, in which imitations of native money (the so-called “crockards” and “pollards” issued in the Low Countries) circulated extensively and threatened to drive the better-quality English pennies out of use. The king, Edward i (1272–1307), and his agents responded around 1300 by fixing prices for basic commodities with the assizes of bread, ale, and wine, at the same time decreeing that the foreign imitations would be accepted at half the value of equivalent sterling pennies. In principle, this policy should have been beneficial to holders of foreign coin, as their intrinsic value was greater than a halfpenny, so having them reminted would have both injected silver into the domestic currency and provided a profit for individual owners. Many people, however, resisted the revaluation, believing that crockards and pollards would soon be demonetized altogether and not wanting to be lumbered with unspendable coin. Hence, the king’s courts filled up with tradesmen who had rejected foreign coin or hiked their prices when faced with them. Others came to court over another royal provision – that debts incurred before the adjustment in value of crockards and pollards had to be paid at the face value of current money, which served to antagonize creditors who received imitations in settlement (albeit at appropriate value) and also debtors who sometimes found the same amount of money coming out at a lower value because of its imitative content. 77 During this challenging period, administrative decisions aimed at restoring the stability and status of the English currency, implemented through legal enactments, conflicted with the wariness of society as a whole. The basic aims of law and the needs of society were not always identical, and money (integral to both) was a potential flashpoint.

There was also a law beyond the law which governed the role of money in medieval society. Christian religion exerted a powerful influence on how money was conceived of and used, not least through influencing the outlook of lawmakers, as mentioned above. But the effects of religious thought on money ran much deeper. From the later years of the Roman Empire onwards, Christian iconography became commonplace on coinage, and was ubiquitous in the Middle Ages. 78 Placement of a cross, saint, religious invocation, or similar on coined money invoked a universal element of social identity, and might carry strong local resonance it also made crimes against the currency into crimes against God as well as the secular authorities. 79

The use of money interfaced with medieval Christianity in a number of ways. Coinage was recognized as a foundational mechanism in the running of society, including on the part of the Church. Tithes and other dues were commonly expected in cash, as were pious gifts and a host of other ecclesiastical payments. One tranche of largely English silver coins was found in the Roman Forum, with a pair of fasteners identifying the hoard as a gift for Pope Marinus ii (942–946). 80 No stigma was attached to expressions of devotion in money, at least on the part of laymen: fears of simony (i.e., exchanging the cure of souls for money), especially during and after the papal reform movement of the 11th century, introduced more caution about the influence of money on clergy. 81 Miracle collections include numerous stories of how those who stole money from a church or withheld a promised donation suffered divine retribution. 82 A dramatic story in the Miracula sancti Benedicti of the 11th century illustrates very effectively how money was incorporated into divinely governed society. A servile peasant named Stabilis fled from his master, the monastery of St Benedict at Fleury, and stopped paying the census due to the church. Later, a monk from Fleury happened to spot Stabilis at the new home where he had set himself up in Burgundy. The monk tried to reclaim St Benedict’s rightful property, but Stabilis resisted, and the dispute was eventually put to a trial by combat. Stabilis had not expected the case to proceed so far, and at the beginning of the fight he took a halfpenny (obolum) out of his sleeve and threw it on the ground as a “proof of his servitude” (servilis testimonii). Miraculously, the coin instantly grew to be as big as a shield, defending Benedict’s property, signalling the saint’s victory in the case and forcing the unfortunate Stabilis back to his lowly roots. 83 Religion and money could thus work hand in hand to reinforce the integrity of society. Correspondingly, rejection of money sometimes meant the rejection of other social norms, including property and mainstream Christianity itself. Orthodox commentators on 11th-century heretics noted how the latter rejected conventional norms of money and property. 84 Money was also used to target the Jews. Christians as well as Jews were accused of numerous currency crimes in 13th-century England – but although the former were more numerous, Jews were ten times more likely to the suffer the death penalty, and much less often able to get away with a fine. 85

Perhaps the most eloquent instance of the integration of money into Christian belief and society came with the legend of the 30 pieces of silver: a series of texts which recounted how the batch of coins paid to Judas to betray Christ had passed from one biblical figure to another for centuries, featuring in many of the most prominent monetary gifts or payments of the Old Testament. 86 The earliest incarnation of the legend, in the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo (d. c.1196), claimed to be based on an (apocryphal) account by St Bartholomew which may have had an Armenian provenance. 87 According to Godfrey’s version of events, the coins began life as the gold furnished to Ninus, Assyrian founder of Nineveh, by Terah, father of Abraham. They were subsequently used by Abraham to buy Sarah’s burial plot and for the purchase of Joseph as a slave, and ended up in the temple of Solomon before being looted by Nebuchadnezzar. He in turn gave the gold to three wise men who brought it to the new-born Christ as one of their three gifts. After a sojourn in Armenia, the gold was placed in the temple before finally being given to Judas. In this way, the to and fro of monetary exchange itself became the stuff of miraculous legend. Godfrey was aware of the rather dubious historical leaps of faith this tale required, not least from gold to silver, and sought to circumvent the apparent discrepancy by claiming that ancient usage interchanged the names for gold and silver freely. The appearance and popularization of this legend in later medieval Europe doubtless owes much to the increasing monetization of the period. Indeed, ancient coins were sometimes identified as relics of the 30 pieces of silver handed over to Judas, and enshrined as such one, now in the Hunt Museum, Limerick, is a Syracusan dekadrachm of c.400 B.C. contained within an early 14th-century mount inscribed QVIA PRECIVM SANGVINIS EST (“since it is the price of blood”). 88 Others, some surviving, some known only from illustrations, included Celtic coins and, most commonly, silver pieces from ancient Rhodes, which featured a vaguely Christ-like bust. 89

Not only was money deeply integrated into medieval Christian belief, but Christianity was embedded into monetary forms of exchange. Rooted in the highly commercialized and monetized world of 1st-century Judea, Christianity had always been heavily permeated by the language of the marketplace. 90 The result was that aspects of economic life were governed, at least in principle, by the moral and social ideals advocated in the Bible. A great many miracle stories revolve around money and its proper use and provide vivid incidental insight into how writers saw money functioning around them. One 9th-century text from western France reported how a poor man (one of the plebeia multitudo who gathered at the shrine of St Philibert) went to a nearby tavern to buy some wine. He wanted an obol’s (halfpenny) worth, but had only a full denarius (penny) with which to pay. The barman gave him an obol in change, but inadvertently also a full penny’s worth of wine. When the customer came back and brought his coin to the barman for another round, he was met with the words, “You must be having a laugh, mate: what you’ve got there is mine, not yours, as you took away both my wine and my money”. 91 According to the story, the customer angrily denied the charge and swore (falsely) on St Philibert that he would vomit up the wine he had just drunk if the accusation were true. The saint did not take kindly to this, and inflicted prompt and messy vengeance. The drinker then sheepishly handed over the coin and slunk away. 92 This memorable anecdote, suggestive of how peasants and shopkeepers used coined money on a daily basis and dealt with concomitant problems of making small change, also served to reinforce the importance of swearing truthfully and not swindling one’s fellows. A similarly exemplary miracle story included in a letter of Peter Damian (d. 1072/1073) told of how a couple on pilgrimage to Rome lost a purse of money in Lake Bolsena. They persevered despite this hardship. On the way home, they stopped at the same lake for a meal. Importantly, when the husband asked to buy a fish from a fisherman, he calmly agreed to pay the higher price of 15 pence instead of the 12 he first offered. The couple then found their missing purse in the stomach of the fish, God having recognized their frugal and fair conduct and seen fit to repay them in kind. 93 Money, as a tool of exploitation, needed to be handled with care, and was supposedly under the ever-watchful eye of God.

Debasements and Small Coins: An Untold Story of Commodity Money

This paper draws quantitative implications for some historical coinage issues from an existing formulation of a theory that explains the society's demand for multiple denominations. The model is parameterized to match some key monetary characteristics in late medieval England. Inconvenience for an agent due to a shortage of a type of coin is measured by the difference between his welfare given the shortage and his welfare in a hypothetical scenario that the mint suddenly eliminates the shortage. A small coin has a more prominent role than small change. Because of this role, a shortage of small coins is highly inconvenient for poor people and, the inconvenience may extend to all people when commerce advances. A debasement may effectively supply substitutes to small coins in shortage. Large increase in the minting volume, cocirculation of old and new coins, and circulation by weight, critical facts constituting the debasement puzzle, emerge in the equilibrium path that follows the debasement.

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