I haven't forgotten about this blog! Here's another post to re-start the momentum.
Have you ever wondered what kind of money people were using in the various kindoms of medieval Europe? The following resources can help you discover what what's jingling in your characters' pockets.The Money Museum
has images of coins from all over the world and all periods of history. To find the ones you want to see, just check off the modern country that corresponds with your desired kingdom or principality, and move the arrows on the timeline to indicate the desired timespan. Don't be intimidated by the fact that the site is in German. It's quite user-friendly. Here's some handy vocabulary to navigate it.( Read more...Collapse )
A similar database is the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds
at Cambridge University. It catalogues the discoveries of single coins minted between 410 and 1180 and found in the British Isles. Many of them come from distant lands, and that's something to keep in mind. During the Middle Ages, there were usually many different currencies circulating at once in any given region.
If you want to understand how medieval people used money, you can find an introduction to the subject in the early pages of John F. Chown’s book A History of Money: from AD 800
. You can read most of it online at Google Books.
Chown answers a great many questions about how medieval money worked, and can tell you a great deal you didn’t even know you should know. Why does bad coinage drive out good? Did gold coins always have a fixed value in relation to silver coins? Why were prices and accounts often recorded in denominations that didn’t match the coinage in circulation? Chown’s nice clear prose makes some fairly complicated concepts easy to understand.
Another useful book, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe
by Peter Spufford, can tell you a great deal about minting and the sources of gold and silver in your kingdom and period. This one is mostly online too.
Another common question people want to know is “How much did X cost in the Middle Ages?” That one can be tricky. However, if you’re studying England in the late Middle Ages, you can refer to the classic book A History of Agriculture and Prices in England
by James E. Thorold Rogers. The first volume, covering the years 1259-1400, is on archive.org.
Thorold Rogers painstakingly tracked down records of prices for agricultural produce, fish, wool, textiles, metal, and other products and produced charts showing price fluctuations over time.
If you’re trying to guess how much something would have cost in the Middle Ages, remember that some things would be much more expensive, relatively speaking, than they are today. Before the industrial revolution made textile production cheaper, a full set of bed hangings and bed linens might be worth more than a modest house. Guessing the medieval value of something isn’t just a matter of dividing the modern price by a certain number to account for inflation. The last word on the subject goes to Lord Beveridge, from his book Prices and Wages in England
, published in 1939. At Hinderclay in Suffolk, before the Black Death, wheat was being sold at prices varying with the harvest but ranging about 5s. a quarter; steel was being bought for ploughshares and other implements, at prices also varying from year to year and ranging about 6d. a lb., that is to say, at £50 and upwards per ton. To-day a normal price for wheat is about 50s. a quarter, and for steel is about £10 a ton. While the price of wheat has multiplied ten times, that of steel has fallen to a fifth; a quarter of wheat will buy fifty times as much steel as it once did. The contrast between the wheat age and the steel age could hardly be better illustrated. The difficulties of making index numbers to cover centuries need no further comment.The Money-Changer and his Wife, Martinus van Reymerswaele, 1539. Image from www.artilim.com