What lessons does monetary history offer that are relevant to today's economic, political and social problems?

Because of the difficulties of conducting experiments in the ordinary business of economic life, at the centre of which is money, it is most fortunate that history generously provides us with a proxy laboratory, a guidebook of more or less relevant alternatives. Around the next corner there may be lying in wait apparently quite novel monetary problems which in all probability bear a basic similarity to those that have already been tackled with varying degrees of success or failure in other times and places.
Yet despite the antiquity and ubiquity of money its proper management and control have eluded the rulers of most modern states partly because they have ignored the wide-ranging lessons of the past or have taken too blinkered and narrow a view of money. Economists, and especially monetarists, tend to overestimate the purely economic, narrow and technical functions of money and have placed insufficient emphasis on its wider social, institutional and psychological aspects.

However, money originated very largely from non-economic causes: from tribute as well as trade, from blood-money and bride-money as well as from barter, from ceremonial and religious rites as well as from commerce, from ostentatious ornamentation as well as from acting as the common drudge between economic men.

Even in modern circumstances money still yields powerfully important psychic returns such as in an individual's social rank and standing, or a nation's position in the GNP league table. Thus money, more than ever in our monetarist era, needs to be widely interpreted to include discussion not only of currency and banking, but also savings banks, building societies, hire purchase finance companies and the fiscal framework on those not infrequent occasions when fiscal policy conflicts with or complements the operation of monetary policy. In this regard, even in medieval and earlier periods these wider aspects were of considerably greater importance than is conventionally believed.

There are therefore many advantages which can only be obtained by tracing monetary and financial history with a broad brush over the whole period of its long and convoluted development, where primitive and modern moneys have overlapped for centuries and where the logical and chronological progressions have rarely followed strictly parallel paths.

Paraphrased from Glyn Davies, A History of Money, Preface page xvii.

Notes on the Chronology
In cases where events took place over a number of years they may overlap the period boundaries on the left. In such cases the events will be listed in more than one timeline. The page numbers given after the annotations refer to the places in the book where the topics are mentioned in the first or second editions. Page numbers in the range 657-672 refer to the postscript in the 2nd (paperback) edition. Page numbers lower than 657 are the same in the first and second editions.

The page numbers in the new, 3rd edition will be slightly different.


Powered By: Juliano