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A History of Money, Part 3

By Edited Aug 18, 2016 0 0

In 410 AD, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. After the fall of Rome, banking was abandoned throughout Western Europe and did not re-emerge until the beginning of the Crusades. Coins ceased to be used in Britain as the Anglo-Saxon invasions began around 435 AD. They were not minted again until more than a century had passed, when the Frankish Bishop Liudhard arrived in England from France. Liudhard had accompanied the Merovingian Princess Bertha to England prior to her marriage to Prince Aethelbart, and he helped found the first Christian Saxon church in Canterbury. The coin he minted, the Liudhard medalet, was probably intended for ornamental purposes as an emblem signifying conversion to Christianity. The next known minting of coins undertaken by Bishop Mellitus for similar reasons.

Around 630 AD commerce was being reestablished between England, France and Italy, and the Saxons began producing larger numbers of gold coins, a process which continued for about fifty years. A century later, Pepin the Short became the first Carolingian King, and he minted the Denier, a silver coin that served as the model for the English penny. A great deal of coinage was minted during the reign of the Saxon King Offa, who often had his own likeness depicted on the coins. The first English pennies were produced in Kent, which was conquered by King Offa, after which the production of silver pennies increased until they became the most common English coin. 

Vikings began launching raids on England starting around 790 AD, a process which would continue for centuries. After Athelstan's conquest of the Danelaw, England was united and a single national currency was mandated by the Statute of Greatley. The statute included provisions that any moneyers found guilty of debasing the coins would have their hands chopped off and fastened up at their mint, and that those who wished to clear the accusation would face an ordeal of hot iron.

King Edgar reformed the English coinage by increasing regulations to ensure uniform standards. The high demand for a reliable and royally authenticated currency resulted in the value of Edgar's coins becoming higher than the value of their raw silver content, so Edgar and succeeding Kings were able to make large profits by recalling their own coins, melting them down, and reminting them. During the reign of Cnut the Great, large numbers of English coins began to arrive in Scandinavia (primarily as the result of trade rather than Viking raids). 

After the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror introduced an efficient taxation system that resulted in England's maintaining a more stable currency than most European counterparts. Twenty years after the Battle, William I also introduced the infamous "Domesday Book," which immensely strengthened his grip on power. William ordered that the Domesday Book be created to take a survey of all properties owned throughout England, so that he would know exactly who owed him tax. The information entered into the book was considered a final judgment, which eliminated the possibility of dispute. The financial information gathered in the Domesday Book also meant that no prospective usurper could hide away enough money to raise an army against the Crown, while William and his successors would have large tax-financed treasuries to expand their own armies.

This history of money will continue in Part IV, featuring the re-emergence of banking during the Crusades, mainly due to the actions of the Knight's Templars.



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