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Money in the Western Legal TraditionMiddle Ages to Bretton Woods$
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David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704744.001.0001

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Currency Depreciation and Debasement in Medieval Europe

Currency Depreciation and Debasement in Medieval Europe

Chapter:
(p.41) 3 Currency Depreciation and Debasement in Medieval Europe
Source:
Money in the Western Legal Tradition
Author(s):

Martin Allen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704744.003.0003

In medieval Europe currency depreciation or debasement occurred when the bullion content of coins was reduced or their nominal value was increased. This could be caused by government manipulation of the currency for fiscal purposes, the pressure of commercial interests, or a need to maintain the competitiveness of mints. Currency depreciation and debasement caused inflation and erosion of the values of fixed rents and payments, provoking opposition from representative bodies in England, France, and the Netherlands. In France and Italy doctrines of civil and canon law were modified to accommodate the payment of coins of equal intrinsic value after a debasement, but in England, where debasement was slowest, common law did not make any allowance for its effects when payments were made.

Keywords:   currency depreciation, debasement, medieval Europe, Carlo Cipolla, John Munro, aggressive debasements, revenue, seigniorage

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