Studies in Medieval Coinage

Studies in Medieval Coinage at Leeds International Medieval Congress: SMC @ IMC

Making the World Go Round: Coinage, Currency, Credit, Recycling & Finance in Medieval Europe

Held on Wednesday 13th July 2011

This one-day event served a dual purpose – to ascertain the appetite of attendees at the Leeds IMC for numismatics and also to act as the first of three days of local numismatic events.

Whilst IMC covers A.D. 300-1500, the numismatic content was limited to after the coinage reform of 973 so as to draw a boundary between the ongoing, biennial symposia in early medieval coinage and what hopefully will become a regular “SMC @ IMC” presence.

The first of four full sessions related to Viking coinage with Megan Gooch and Andy Woods assessing the coinages of York and Dublin respectively. An international flavour was introduced by Hendrik Mäkeler, with a macro-economic analysis of monetary systems.

Gareth Williams started the second session – and his first talk of three on different topics on successive days – with the intriguing speculation that the last Anglo-Saxon emissions were produced by the politically well-connected Queen Edith from the Wilton mint. We were then treated to a contrast of micro- and macro-studies as Tom Williams gave a detailed examination of the Wallingford mint whilst Henry Fairbairn considered the role and value of salt in the late C11th when the economy continued its progression towards a full money model..

Attendees had the choice of a sandwich and pint from the Stables Bar or a full, if rather hurried, lunch from the Weetwood restaurant before the packed programme restarted with Nick Mayhew’s revealing lunchtime lecture on middle and later medieval monetary history. Nick chose to come off the fence on a number of contested interpretations regarding population and wealth distribution, A fitting topic for this year’s IMC theme of Poor...Rich though over reliance on the accuracy of statistics can be problematic. He suggested that the different functions of gold and silver need further consideration.

The early afternoon session on a summer’s day can be a challenge to the most ardent student. Fortunately, a change of tack kept the audience on its toes. A foray into the alternative use of coinage was made by Richard Kelleher with David Harpin describing coin brooches. Sandwiched between these two, Laura Mitchell lifted the veil on medieval charms relating to money: “si vis semper habere denarium in bursa…” (if you wish always to have money in your purse…)

Whilst one aim of the IMC is to encourage novice speakers to take the platform, the final session of the day was given over to seasoned professionals. Martin Allen looked at fluctuations in the money supply after the Black Death returning to the question of the different functions of gold and silver. Tony Moore gave an explanation of the circular flow of payment by bills of exchange and an analysis of the volumes, purposes and distribution of transactions. Finally, Barrie Cook described the money-gift that was an integral part of the royal procession and entry, based on the Roman adventus.

The following day saw many of the attendees reconvene at the well-appointed Bar Convent just outside Micklegate Bar in York for Moneta Britannia with another packed programme focussing on the coinage of Roman Britain. After two days exciting the aspirations of the collectors in these audiences, they were let loose on Friday at the York Stamp and Coin Fair at the Racecourse Pavilion. Under the auspices of the Yorkshire Numismatic Society, an early afternoon lecture on the Vale of York Coin Hoard was introduced by James Booth and presented by Gareth Williams. Gareth described the ebb and flow of political power between Mercia and Northumbria in the first quarter of the tenth century, which we are now able to discern from the contents of this remarkable hoard. The lecture was attended by one of the finders, David Whelan.

Papers from the two symposia will be collated into volume 4 of The Yorkshire Numismatist with a publication deadline of the end of this year.

Tony Abramson

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