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By John F Chown, Forrest Capie

This booklet offers an in depth and excellent historical past of cash from Charlemagne's reform in nearly AD800 to the tip of the Silver Wars in 1896. It additionally summarizes 20th century advancements and locations them of their old context.

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Italian merchants were used to handling the coins of the empire, and its final decline left a gap which had to be filled. The first European gold coin, the Augustale, was struck by Frederick II of Brindisi in 1231, but serious gold coinage really begins in 1252, when the city state of Florence began to strike the hugely successful ‘Fiorino’ or florin. The initiative was quickly followed, or, Robert Lopez (1986) would argue preceded, by Genoa, and the idea quickly spread across Europe. The development of a coinage suited to the needs of trade created its own problems.

The main object of monetary policy of such a ruler was to raise revenue, whether honestly by seigniorage or dishonestly by debasement. Although he might be constrained ‘by the teaching of the churchmen and lawyers about his obligation to do justice or by powerful subjects’ opposition to change’, (Lane and Mueller 1985:91) the needs of trade, or the benefits of stable prices, would not concern him. Italy Italy was different. Several cities, with their relatively dense populations dominated by merchants, had already become independent, self-governing City States.

After the break-up of the Carolingian Empire there was no centralised monetary authority in Western Europe. Coins were struck by various feudal lords and ecclesiastical authorities. A standard reference book describes the coins of no less than 136 different French feudal and ecclesiastical issuers for this period, with another 247 for ‘Germany’, a loose geographical term which also included what are now Austria, Switzerland and the Low Countries (Engel and Serrure 1890 vol. 3). The designs of the coins became degraded.

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