Monthly Archives: June 2014

Mind the Pennies …: Money and its Use in Early Medieval Europe

The Social Significance of Monetization in the Early Middle Ages guest post by Rory Naismith A great deal of scholarly effort has been devoted to brightening up the so-called Dark Ages after the end of the Roman Empire in western Europe. But one area which still looks especially murky compared to both the Roman period and modern times is the monetary system.   The only coins which the inhabitants of western Europe would probably ever use were made of gold or silver for, unlike modern coins and notes, there remained a link (albeit a flexible one) between the face value of a coin and its intrinsic worth in precious metal. These gold and silver pieces are the ancestors of the shilling and the penny (scilling and pæning in Old English).   In the six centuries or so after the end of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, however, spending a penny – let alone a shilling or a pound – was a major undertaking.   Only a few records of prices survive. Charlemagne in 794 decreed that a single silver penny (weighing 1.7 grams) should buy a dozen two-pound loaves of wheat bread. Somewhat later, Æthelstan, king of the […]

Welcome to the Past & Present blog

Welcome to the new Past & Present blog. Here we will post items relating to all our activities, including notices of conferences, notes on forthcoming volumes in the book series, supplements, and so on. Most excitingly we’ll have guest posts from our authors on topics relating to recent articles in the journal – watch this space for posts from Noah Shusterman, Rory Naismith and others, coming very soon.   We hope that the blog will provide a forum for debate and we welcome comments from everybody. (Though I hope it should really go without saying that we’d like you to keep the tone civilised – I will exercise ruthless powers of moderation on anything untoward.)   Please do get in touch if you would like to contribute to the blog, or have ideas about things we should be doing here: