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New Medieval Books: Making Money in the Early Middle Ages

Making Money in the Early Middle Ages

By Rory Naismith

Princeton University Press
ISBN: 978-0-691-24933-9

This book begins with the question: Why did people make and use coins at all in the early Middle Ages, if cash was so scarce that they were used to getting by without? It then goes to show how coins still had an important role in early medieval society and their economies.


Early medieval coins were effectively pieces of metal manufactured to be of acceptable alloy, weight, and size. They would then be struck using a pair of stamps, known as dies. This final step is what leaves the imprint and therefore makes a blank disc into a coin, but most of the effort and technical expertise went into the preliminary steps. In practical terms, minting was essentially a subset of metalworking: a fact that is easily forgotten if coins are treated only as manifestations of jurisdiction and power. Several kinds of equipment and support were needed to undertake the physical processes involved. Most obviously, that included the requisite metal, plus any other minerals needed to produce the desired alloy, along with weights and scales for verifying weight. A good furnace was essential, along with fuel to keep it burning. Crucibles and metalworking tools were also indispensable. Dies had to be made from iron and steel. The tally goes on.


Who is this book for?

While some people might think writing about coins is a dry topic, this work is a fascinating look at the relationship between society and its money. Those interested in numismatics will want this book, as will others who research the Early Middle Ages, particularly its economic history.

The Author:

Rory Naismith is Professor of Early Medieval English History at the University of Cambridge, and perhaps the leading expert on coins in the Middle Ages. He is a prolific author of books and articles – check out his page or follow Rory on Twitter @Rory_Naismith.


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