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‘Imaginary’ or ‘Real’ Moneys of Account in Medieval Europe? An Econometric Analysis of the Basle Pound, 1365–1429

Imaginary’ or ‘Real’ Moneys of Account in Medieval Europe? An Econometric Analysis of the Basle Pound, 1365–1429

By Ernst Juerg Weber

Explorations in Economic History, Vol.33 (1996)

Abstract: During the Middle Ages, the medium of exchange function of money was separate from the unit of account function. This has given rise to the misconception that the medieval pound was an ‘‘abstract’’ or ‘‘imaginary’’ unit of account whose purchasing power was independent of that of gold and silver coins. The joint behavior of the pound price of gold, the pound price of silver, and the silver–gold ratio in Basle between 1365 and 1429 cannot be reconciled with the notion that nominal values were autonomous. Instead, the monetary system was based on a silver standard, supplemented by gold coins whose money of account values were determined by this silver standard.

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