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Book Reviews and News Books

A History of Money
From Ancient Times to the Present Day
Author: Glyn Davies. Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales, and Economic Adviser to Julian Hodge Bank Ltd.
Publisher: University of Wales Press, Cardiff. © 1994

"A History of Money" is a serious book for those seriously interested in all aspects of money, coins and currency. Over 700 pages, even the bibliography fills 20 pages.
After 35 years in the coin business, I was delighted to find this book from which I have already learnt quite a lot, and I'm still only two thirds the way through it. To describe this book as an economics textbook would probably make it sound dull and boring. However if, like me, you have ever found yourself wondering when and where coins were invented, or about the past ratios between gold and silver, then you will find the contents of this book very interesting and informative.
I never realised that there were 40 million silver pennies issued for Ethelred II, a millennium ago!
Before I had even finished reading the first chapter, it was obvious that here was a book which was in a class of its own. I had already dived into other parts of the book, for authoritative information which I have used when writing pages for our own coin website.
This is indeed a high compliment to Professor Davies' excellent book.
All numismatic professionals should read this book, and all but the laziest collectors will find considerable material in it to enhance their knowledge and enjoyment of their collection.
I've got a feeling that I will need to re-read sections of this book making notes of many of the facts I have merely skimmed over in my first reading.
It will definitely be kept handy on my reference shelves for many years to come.
It is excellent value at only 9.95

Even if only one single chapter of this book was of interest to an individual reader, then that chapter would be good value at the price of the entire book! Because of this, I feel that each chapter deserves its own mini-review.

Chapter 1: The Nature and Origins of Money and Barter.
This chapter answers the question "what is money", which may seem obvious, but it is important for a thorough understanding, to give some thought to this question.

Chapter 2: From Primitive and Ancient Money to the Invention of Coinage, 3000 - 600 BC.
Every coin collector and dealer ought to know how the use of money and coins came about, so should every economist, historian, businessman, banker, investor, and politican. In fact we all would benefit from a better understanding of something which we all use every day, and take so greatly for granted.

Chapter 3: The Development of Greek and Roman Money, 600 BC - AD 400.
I learnt more about "classical" coins from this chapter than from 35 years in coin dealing. Gave me a greater depth of understanding of the roots of our modern coinage.

Chapter4: The Penny and the Pound in Medieval Money, 410 - 1485.
Details the early days of British coins, from the pre-Roman Celtic coinage, the withdrawal of Roman influence, through the Dark Ages, the unfication of England from a tribal society to a united kingdom, and the emergence from the miffle ages. Probably the most important and informative chapter for all interested in British coins.

Chapter 5: The Expansion of Trade and Finance, 1485 - 1640.
From the opening up of the New Word, with its vast deposits of gold and silver, and new routes to the East, to the birth of British banking, this chapter set a background for those interested in Tudor times.

Chapter 6: The Birth and Early Growth of British Banking, 1640 - 1789.
This, and subsequent chapters, are more about money than coins, but are still of relevance to the numismatist. This period coincides with the conversion of coinage from hand hammering to machine made, continuing until the major recoinage during the reign of George III.

Chapter 7: The Ascendancy of Sterling, 1789 - 1914.
The era of the gold standard, and the growth of banks, building societies, and savings institutions, bringing banking to the masses.

Chapter 8: British Monetary Development in the Twentieth Century.
From 1914, the Gold Standard was dead, paper money took its place, and by 1947 almost no country used coins in precious metal for circulation.

Chapter 9: American Monetary Development Since 1700.
Charts the chaotic course of the American Dollar, in the days before the "Fed" opened in 1861, through to its dominant current position as the world major currency.

Chapter 10: Aspects of Monetary Development in Europe and Japan.
Chapter 11: Third World Money and Debt in the Twentieth Century.
Chapter 12: Global Money in Historical Perspective.
Postscript: The View from 1996.
For further details e-mail: [email protected]

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