EH443      Half Unit
The History of Premodern Money

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Oliver Volckart SAR.6.10


This course is available on the MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Financial History, MSc in Global Economic History, MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus) and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access).

Course content

The course examines European monetary and financial policies up to the early eighteenth centuries. It takes students from the simple beginnings of European monetary history to the more complex arrangements that emerged toward the end of the early modern age. The course thus focuses on an age when the very parameters that shaped policies differed fundamentally from those of the present: For example, there were no currency borders, with money supply being essentially international, and small change was only weakly integrated with the larger units of its currency. The course will discuss and compare developments in the major European countries (England, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany). It emphasises both the many features shared by these countries and their often considerable differences, places monetary and financial policies in the context of more general economic policies and discusses how money and finance influenced the wider economy.


20 hours of seminars in the AT.

Formative coursework

Each student is expected to give one presentation (5-8 minutes) and to produce one formative essay. While the presentation will be based on secondary sources, the essay will discuss a primary source of the kind also used in the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

  • Bordo, Michael M. "Money, Deflation and Seignorage in the Fifteenth Century: A Review Essay,"  Journal of Monetary Economics 18 (1986): 337-46.
  • Drelichman, Mauricio, and Hans-Joachim Voth. Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt, Taxes, and Default in the Age of Philip II. The Princeton Economic History of the Western World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  • Redish, Angela. Bimetallism: An Economic and Historical Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Spufford, Peter. Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe. Cambridge, New York, Port Chester, Melbourne, Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1991.


Take-home assessment (100%) in January.

Students have 2 weeks to complete the assessment in early January. The assessment will be based on primary sources of the kind whose analysis has been practiced in the seminar every week as well as in the formative essay.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills