The three Types of Currency – The Monetary Question

Georges Depeyrot, The three Types of Currency. The monetary question (Antiquity – 19th century). Collection Moneta 208. Moneta, Wetteren 2020. 272pp., 34 plates. 21 x 29 cm. ISBN: 978-94-91384-76-9. 85 euros.
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Never in history, has there existed only one currency. Between the creation of currency in the 7th century BC and the general monetization of trade, including the smallest types, during the 19th century, mints were never able to produce enough currencies to meet the needs of people.

These needs differed according to social strata, rulers wanted large amounts of currency of high value capable of financing the needs of the countries. When necessary, governments resorted to currency manipulation or debts. Merchants wanted to trade in stable currencies to be able to borrow and lend funds, and above all, to secure themselves against currency devaluations. The population, often deprived of coins, used various currencies, often local. In rural communities, debts were common.

We get the perception of how currencies circulated during that period from various resources. In some cases, these are official documents, which explain the needs of authorities, in other cases, this is ample documentation left by merchants, who took care of their business. The population did not leave much record. Only economists and ecclesiastical texts spoke as if the currency concerned the entire population.

Coin finds themselves point to the division in the spheres of exchange. There were silver coins or poor bronze coins, depending on the fortune of their owners. The study of money therefore requires taking into account the existence of three zones of circulation. Never in history, has there existed only one currency. On the contrary, there have always coexisted three of them, different and complementary. The prevailing concept was carried by merchants: liberalization of loans and generalization of banks, stability of currencies and units of account, monetization of all social strata.


The book can be ordered on the website of Collection Moneta.

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