Managing the Wealth of Nations
Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe

6: Velocity! Money, Circulation and Economic Development, c.1250–1850

This chapter zooms in on money and its circulation, extending the argument in Chapter 5 by taking a dynamic perspective on materiality, velocity and coins. It provides an intellectual archaeology of an economic variable that to the present day is either enigmatic, or somewhat taken as a residual: velocity. I suggest that in historical times velocity was conceptualized more dynamically, as an independent variable with lots of economic agency. Combining archaeological and numismatic evidence with conceptual framings of velocity from Martin Luther and the humanists in the 16th to John Locke and cameralists and economists of the so-called ‘Historical School’ of the later 19th century, the chapter extends our view on the functionality of early modern markets through the lens of money. Since the end of the Middle Ages states developed an increasingly sophisticated toolkit of using the dynamics of monetary circulation in the economic process, preventing people from being parsimonious and overly thrifty. ‘Money makes the world go round’ thus attains a completely new meaning through a new methodological approach to coins and capitalism.

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