Bank Restriction Act in Caricature

           The 18th century was a formative one in finance, especially in Britain. The innovations of the ‘Financial Revolution’ and the accompanying respect for the importance of sound credit had resulted in an increasing ‘financialization’ of the economy. Though still scarce, credit was becoming more accessible, most of all for the increasingly indebted British state. When

Fishguard and the Gold Standard

           In its first century in operation, the Bank of England carried out a wide array of functions, many of which it had a legal or practical monopoly over. One of these was ensuring its banknotes, the most common in the country, were adequately backed by reserves, the most important of which was gold. However, in

Forsaken Somali Shilling

           Fiat currencies supposedly receive their value from the dictates of the issuing government. Citizens must pay their taxes in official currency and even the acceptance of a certain money in private transactions may be mandated by the state. Accordingly, the exact value of fiat currencies is usually linked to the health of the issuer. If

Quebec’s Card Money

           Though invented in China a millennia ago, paper money was viewed with suspicion for centuries thereafter. With its issuance potentially unlimited, how could its value be maintained? The question was grappled with in colonial Quebec, which resorted to using paper money made from ordinary playing cards in order to make up for a chronic shortage

WWI’s Emergency Money

           Back when the value of currencies was still linked to the precious metals, and their issuance therefore curtailed, many resented the scarcity of money as the cause of their economic ills. Of course, a deficiency of money makes credit similarly scarce and can slow economic growth even when any stimulus at all would be welcomed.

A Money Changer’s Paradise

           Through much of the history of paper money, banknotes were issued by private entities operating in a decentralized system of money and finance. In whatever country and whatever their denomination, banknotes even traded at discounts to their face value that varied according to their liquidity and the health of the issuing bank. In the 19th

The Mark that Saved Germany

           Hyperinflation crippled numerous economies in the 20th century and continues to do so to this day. One of the most severe, and the one that is perhaps the most recounted to this day occurred in Germany following its defeat in the First World War. That episode of hyperinflation, like all the others, was most directly

From Thaler to Dollar

           When currencies became divorced from the gold and silver that used to determine their value, their utility ceased to be global in extent. From then on, currencies became national phenomena. However, there was a time when the precious metal content of a coin was the sole determinant of its value. In that era, money was

Trade Dollars

           American coinage, much like its paper banknotes, have changed little in decades, at least in regard to their design. This continuity, surely along with the US dollar’s role as a reserve currency, have made American money recognizable to many around the world for generations, especially those engaged in trade or finance. There was however, an

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