The contribution of the English mints to government revenue, 1158-1544

The contribution of the English mints to government revenue, 1158-1544

By Martin Allen

Paper given at Economic History Society Annual Conference, University of Cambridge, 1-3 April 2011

Introduction: The contribution of the English mints to the king’s revenue is a relatively neglected aspect of government finance in medieval England. When the mints are included in discussions of the revenue of particular periods the data used are often incomplete or misinterpreted. A survey of all of the available English mint accounts from 1220 to 1544 has provided an almost complete series of data for the profits of the royal mints, which, together with mint data of various kinds before 1220, allows an assessment of the coinage’s contribution to the king’s revenue between 1158 and 1544. In addition to mint profit data, this assessment also requires a review of the secondary literature on total revenue at various periods because there is no published comprehensive survey of government revenue in medieval England. Estimates of total revenue are generally much more problematic than data for one element of royal finance, such as the mints, but it will be shown that the overall trends in the contribution of the production of coinage to total revenue are clear enough.

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