Video chat Oct. 7: Money

A few questions about money that came up in today’s chat are also floating around in the Initial Posts, and I won’t rehash the points too much but here is the short version:

  • The decision to use an object as money requires trust, and in particular for something like paper money needs a stable government to back the value of the thing. Otherwise, your credit card is just a piece of plastic.
    • I know it’s a bit more complicated than this, but this is the very basic level of understanding we need. If you want to know more, please take Macro Economics!
  • The Ming dynasty (1368-1644), generally classified as “Late Imperial” China, saw dramatic economic changes, not just because of internal changes, but from the sixteenth century onward also because of the influx of silver from the New World. Europeans had wanted to take part in the Asian maritime trade network (all the spices mentioned in week 5!) but did not have the required money. Now they did. And they flooded the market, causing a boom, followed by a crash… You can read more about that in another book by Richard von Glahn, The Economic HIstory of China.
  • Coins in China did not have the face of the emperor on them; Roman coins did. (European coins, even in the Eurozone often still have the monarch on them!). It seems Roman emperors really loved to have their face put out there, and they made sure new coins were minted (not cast, but struck) as soon as they came to the throne. That makes it easy to date coins. In China, they could use the same coins for decades, because they did not have to “update” the portrait. That makes it much harder to date them, and hence Helen Wang’s point that numismatics (the study of coins) for China is much less developed as of the time of writing her article.

I hope you found this information useful!

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