What have we learned?

Jan Lucassen

Patrice said: “Money for the poor makes the poor pay”.

Money does not circulate, it is circulated. So it means efforts and costs. Who bear these costs? In a modern system in which state issue money, the state bears the costs and spread it over taxpayers. But when you do not have a state issuing administration, especially for small change, or a collecting bureaucracy, who bears these costs?

In India, money changers made a profit. And from the reactions of the workers, it is clear that the workers went to the changers at a cost. Also they tried to obtain good coins from the employers, leading to conflicts and so on.

See also parliamentary discussions in Belgium in the 1870s. Imagine that you are a baker – how many coins do you have to count? What does it cost in time and efforts to count and sort coins? 2 to 3% in value. You see this ex-baker parliament member showing that cost. It is of course almost universal.

And last question, the relation to wages – it is a labour issue. Do not reduce this to crooks who want to pay their workers in bad moneys. But it is in fact a more subtle and universal problem.

And there is the problem raised by Ismael that there are completely different systems. Cash means generally no relation ensuing – the case of Ismael is completely different and raises value system.

There is also the question of anonymity: it exists in a circle relative to the rest.

Last, Jan stresses the convergences with Patrice’s presentations. The problem of aggregated levels are made so very apparent. We have to contribute to solve these problems.

Maria Stella Chiaruttini

Back to Patrice’s introduction: the poor people usually pay more to get same services. Not only for credit but also to buy things. You can also rephrase: the money of the poor makes the poor poorer.

Frédérique Duyrat

Does small change make poor people poor, or is it the system in itself that makes them poor?

Jan Lucassen

And it underestimates the poor and victimize them, as if they were not able to take countermeasures. You also might say it’s a big achievement to be indebted and so on.

Rila Mukherjee

The poor have some agency. Define what are the poor doing. They must take advantage too.

Ismael Moya

Usually, it always seems that the poor are doing strange things with their money. There’s a whole history about that.

Another point. There is no free access to the monetary circuit. And when you are poor this price may be too high. And if you cannot access it you are driven to peripheral avenues of the system. So you access the lower one, with a price of entry and an impossibility to get out of it: it is monetary trap to poverty.

Mathieu Bidaux

The problem of definition of who is poor remains, as we have seen that “my” poor are not really poor – but they are in regard to banknotes users. This stresses the role of the state, of institutions. The Bank of France at this time is a for-profit body, that prioritize its interests and disregard the problems of poor people money.

Akinobu Kuroda

The imperial monetary policy of Japan very different from French and British ones when it comes to colonial currencies. They were mostly inconvertible.

Jan Lucassen

India is very different case in that respect too.

Cathrine Grandjean

Some issues are very important from a general historical point of view:

  • Was there a lack of economic or monetary culture among the poor. In classical ancient Athena, what about the people that have a limited access to money, to high value moneys?
  • What is the relationship between the powers and the money of the poor. See the foreign money reaching Troyes in the 19th c. (Sargent & Velde, Small change). In ancient times, States or Cities let foreign small coins land in their territory, to avoid their being scarce.

Sophie Laligant

Do poor people use existing monies or create their own? Eventually with different values? What gives social and economic value to money – is that what it is made of or the relationship of poor people to this medium? What is the function of the intrinsic quality of these objects? How is built the relationship to them. This leads to the notion of transfer or transaction and raise organizational issues, banking and legal: property, transaction, credit.

Emmanuel Prunaux

How the different social strata behave towards money can have an impact on the Eurozone. Northern European countries want to get rid of copper coins, which are promoted by Southern European countries.

Frédérique Duyrat

I was glad to discover that there actually was a « money of the poor » coined in 16th c. France. Can we ask the same question or in the same way for other monies?

Thibault Cardon

The medieval black coins were also used to pay either wages or alms.

Jan Lucassen

There co-existed two possibilities in European medieval times: billon and cut coins. Very often, metal detectors found half and quarter pennies.

Frédérique Duyrat

The existence of wages is not really an issue even for ancient times: there were wage labourers in Antiquity. But wage labourers were poor people and should have theoretical access to money. What do you do when you do not have the needed coins to pay?

Jan Lucassen

There is a retreat from describing Antiquity as a slave society to a small producer society. The degree to which there is proletarization, that is the degree to which people are paid in wages is very important.

We should not make the question of the poor too big an issue, and just say that it is the latter half of the income scale.

Akinobu Kuroda

Local currency is different from coinage : barley, rice, coco are also very important in local exchanges.

Sophie Laligant

What is the reason behind someone poor taking an object and making it a money, using it?

Ismael Moya

In our modern world, for the last 50 or 100 years, the monetary circuit has been subordinated to financial exchanges and transfers – that is where the monetary verticality stopped. Thus, we do not really know any more what money is, when there are all these liquid assets that circulate.

Catherine Baroin

The technological innovations are important. The fact that Facebook is about to issue its own money can have a huge impact. The user’s identity is something essential to money. According you are rich or poor, monetary rights change. Senegal example: the identity is crucial to collect the needed money. Even in such a case, it’s not so much money that circulates, but the relationships nurtured through money.

Jan Lucassen

A different approach would distinguish moments in exchange:

  • Perform task or service: deferred payment for work and services
  • Payment happens : shopping

What power do you have to defer the payment? Nobility has the higher power to defer the payment (never). The poorest of the poor has no power to defer. The same goes for an employer: one week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks?

The salary people accept this, to be paid later, because the shopkeeper accepts it, for example through weekly balanced book credit.

Then the question becomes what is your power to defer payment?

Future research

Jan Lucassen

Pretentions should be high. It is an attempt at renovating monetary history at a time of big changes: globalization… It is not a modernist approach nor a capitalist or anticapitalist approach. At least it poses the question: where do monetary and monetarization started. Would it revalue classical antiquity. We should address all that.

New combinations, as said Schumpeter, are innovations: history, archeology, anthropology.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Kuroda Akinobu – A Monetary Unification Neglecting the Ground Level Myth of Unified Money in 1935 China

« The last remaining thing brings fortune »

  He we focus on what kind of transactions people on the ground level did. These transactions are quite independent from transactions by big merchants or governments. But thus they are difficult to trace: lack of sources. We ignore what the vast majority of people were doing.

  How to feed Qing soldiers fighting the opium wars?

  Conversion of silver taels into copper coins (used by peasants) to feed Chinese soldiers with grain was difficult and exchange rates varied a lot over time and region by region. When large quantities of silver were brought suddenly, and because of the scarcity of coins, the price of copper coins increased and thus the capacity to feed the soldiers decreased. This is a testimony of the quite independent spheres of circulation of copper and silver at the time.

  Most historians described the monetary system in China as being unified during the interwar period. The paper standard of 1935 occurred during depression – and it was a paper money standard guaranteed by the government.

  But in 1936 a Guomintang army walked through Shaanxi, and was provided with official money in banknotes. Denominations were as high as 1 month of revenue of a peasant at least. So they asked local banks to convert the banknotes in order to buy food. But the branch managers of the bank refused do convert the banknotes. That led to a trial and created historical sources that shows that the situation had not changed that much over one century.

  Actually, the local monetary circulation was made up of local paper notes, not issued by government or officially backed, and thus inconvertible. Despite of that people used it. Because most peasants went to markets every two or five days and had to pay in cash and small denominations, a strong seasonality in prices and exchange rates appeared. Peasants are very sensitive to price movements, they waited for the good prices: they negotiated by themselves and did strategic choices. But the supply of this small currency was not elastic enough. That is why people relied on small paper money, even inconvertible.

  In Xiarendu Town (Hubei), 300 households, shop-notes dominated: 36 shops of every trade circulated notes. All shops could function as an issuing bank.

  In Nanazhaoji (Anhui country) in 1936 more than 40 shops issued notes even after the 1935 monetary unification, for an amount several times their own assets. In this case, some issuers tried to regulate and to stabilize the note issuance by building reserves. Because of the conflicts between merchants, it was kept in the sources. In fact, in case someone would convert its note, the shopkeeper would give him in exchange the notes of another shop!

  An index of native notes popularity can be found in the collections of numismatists. In Julu county, 50% of the circulation was made up by local notes – of which it was not possible to tell the genuine and the forged.

  The apparent monetary unification through official paper money on the surface had induced local paper monies to flourish at the ground level. Indeed, the national monetary unification had a stabilizing and unifying effect through large banknotes and interregional exchanges. It also showed that intrinsic value was not necessary for money to intermediate local transactions. But it also showed that local money could not circulate beyond local markets. Money and markets cannot naturally integrate.


Jan Lucassen – Money circulates, because people do. Could the distance of circulation be the walking distance to the market?

A.: This kind of local markets have always been at about a half-day walking distance.

Maria Stella Chiaruttini – Did the shops operate a formal clearing system?

A.: They did not. Over-issuance was not so importance when compared to assets (3 to 4 times) Rather, the issuance fitted actual transactions. But some shops did go away during the night.

Frédérique Duyrat – What about private banknotes forgery?

A.: Nobody knows. Forgery was only local. The problem is that using local notes being illegal, people would not go to the court.

What is important here is competition: no one issue 20 times its assets. Competition created some balance.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Ismael Moya | Université Paris Nanterre, MAE, LESC – Quelques éléments sur l’argent et la finance populaire à Dakar

Dakar – In a poor neighboorhood

  What do poor people do with money and the lack of it? There is here no distinction between intimacy and public life when it comes to money, contrary to Europe or US. No meaningful relationships are possible, especially intimate, without money involved.

  Money is everywhere but at the same time everyone is looking for money all the time, however rich or poor. This scarcity of money is related to permanent monetary relationships between people, economic or not. And because of social solidarity whoever has money is confronted to permanent demands for money from relatives.

  That is why people try to put their money away, in distant banks, out of reach, and especially in collective schemes to reduce the liquidity – thus the success of tontines. Liquidity is thus avoided. Savings come in non-cash version. The problem is to get the cash back when you need it. One could say that wealth management is based on a « preference for illiquidity », which comes with a very high velocity of money, that can be seen in the poor state of banknotes.

  Most financial networks are managed by women and these networks are the structure of social life.

  This modus operandi is also made possible because of the stability of the CFA, that makes this preference for illiquidity possible. People have a complete confidence in the CFA.

  The illiquidity is not only an economic device, it is part of the social life and structure. Agency hinges on the ability to convert liquidity in relations and the reverse.

  It explains why it is so hard to find capital funds to start a business, why life cycle events can synchronize all financial networks and produce huge amounts of cash – up to 1 or 2 years of a household revenue, collected in a few days and distributed in one single evening in hundreds of gifts.

  This financial system is also backed by financial practices: women keep very precise accounts of the sums involved in ceremonies. All ledgers are kept. These account books are just lists, no sums: women do not think in terms of capital or assets, only relationships. They never calculate the amount of money they can mobilize: it is not precise but very efficient. And there are no boundaries between spheres and means of exchange: the same money is used, and there are no moral boundaries between spheres of exchanges. Thus, there is no need for conversion processes. But it is hierarchized in terms of agency, the capacity people have to distribute and collect money. And the system is dominated by social and familial values over economical values. That is why the economy suffers from the illiquidity preference.

  However this system has given the possibility to use these networks to back nanofinance to start businesses. Here, relations are a substitute to capital. And that works, because in a system that draws on illiquidity preference, any liquidity put into the system has a very high price. And people are willing to pay it. This system is not specific to the poor, but the rich have a very different access to banks and capital: they can back their loans with actual capital.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Sophie Laligant | Université de Tours, CITERES et Jordy Sio | Université de Tours – Silver, yams and qëmek in the Kanak small custom in continental France

Jordy Sio, who participates in this ethnographic study, both in French and in Jéou, is a Kanak from Lifu island. They both study the small custom (petite coutume).

The considered population is composed of young Kanak studying in several town of France on scholarships, thus with limited monetary means, but who nevertheless use money in supplement to oher goods in order to perform the small custom. This practice has to be contrasted to their representation of money, especially when it is exchanged from francs pacifiques into euros.

It thus the study of a paradox: that of a deviation from what is considered normal practice. The students proceed with customary acts and try to comply with the custom, even though the context is different. Notably, they use coined money in lieu of yams, despite the latter being considered essential. They thus juxtapose several rationality systems – as one may observe in New Caledonia proper.

How to understand the use of money instead of yams? See Jérôme Blanc on alternative means of payments. Can money perform as yams would? A priori no – see publication on Florès island and Bloch et Parry, Money and the morality of exchange. One of the students thus said: “to a kanak problem, a kanak solution”. And even though the equivalence is not perfect, money is used on the field which raises a question: is it equivalence or substitution that is sought? See Dupuy (quoted by Descola) on the notion of equivalence in material exchange and substitution in monetary exchange.

The money in question here is made of banknotes or coins, either in francs pacifiques (New Caledonia) or euros (France). The two currencies help to support ethnic borders as well as discursive distinctions (the “money of the French”). The traditional kanak money is made of bones, shells and hairs of bats (Maurice Reinhart, 1907), but not in Lifu, were yams and coined money dominate. Yam-money is swaddled as a newborn (in palms) which highlights its actual heteronomy with coined money.

The small custom is a traditional oral code that rules Kanak social relationships.

What does “poor” mean in this context? Many Kanak people leave their tribe for a few months or a few years to work or study, supported by relatives or the customary Senate, and in order to fight their marginalization. The Kanak average revenue is much lower to the French minimum wage and pluri-activity is more and more frequent strategy to increase revenues that also fuels a movement towards stable employment – notably as civil servants.

But these revenues remain to low to finance college studies in France, hence scholarships that come in two forms: Crous state scholarships (a monthly stipend plus a dwelling grant) and the supplementary “pil” (Provincial Islands scholarship). The amounts vary but are generally comprised between 500 and 700 euros – meaning that Kanak students generally live below the poverty line as it is defined in France.

This situation provokes a conflict between two conceptions of poverty, that of the French society (the dictionary defines poverty as material deprivation, lack of resources) does not work in a Kanak context were walth and poverty are mostly social and symbolic notions, linked to the webs of relationships, weddings, power… Also, in a Kanak context, the idea of poverty is mainly related to neglect (djewe katcho) and work comes in two distinct forms: work for money and customary work.

All Kanak students reach France with a “bag” containing all the things received in order not to forget the ancestors. In 1985, the independence movement leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou defined the custom as “the somewhat scornful name that non Kanaks give to what kanaks do”. Also, customs cannot be seen only as what is opposed to modernity, since it is also a way to cope with it while living in relation to the others and to the invisible world of ancestors. Last, the small custom is not a devalued version of the grand custom.

Money and yams are part of two aspects of the small custom:

  • When welcoming someone, for example s student receiving another is being offered a gift, i.e. something or money.
  • In case of a birth: there is a receiving clan and a giving clan, creating a large circulation of small banknotes during the customs 3 days.

Thus, students could buy and use yams to perform the small custom. But they do not know these yams they may find in markets and supermarkets and that do not come from New Caledonia. That is why they use money in lieu of yams, this same money that has no importance in the customary context. Which explains why the term “money” is never used. Besides, even if students say that the “price is free”, the amount is never very high. Accumulating money is unthinkable in a context where money can be put to other uses.


Hisashi Takagi – When yam functions as currency, is it transacted by weight ? Or accounted?

A.: There are many different kinds of yams: for goats or humans and the value change according to size and season.

Catherine Baroin – There is a similar use of money in Tanzania: for large sums, one will use money but give it the name of the traditional numeraire (a beef) in order to transmit the symbolic value, but very often with a string reduction in actual value, by pretending that these banknotes are actually a beef.

A.: In Lifu, the two systems are intertwined: riche people use rice and money, while the others use only yam-money.

Thibault Cardon – What about the interactions between Kanak and non-Kanak students?

A.: Kanak students perform the custom between themselves and in case of inter-ethnic marriage, not when they go to French homes. They also keep the custom to distinguish themselves from the colonial system.

Ismaël Moya – The existence of two monetary systems is quite commonplace. Even with only one money, different circuits can be operated. It is the classical problems of the spheres of circulation and of the exchange operations to move from one sphere to the other.

Jan Lucassen – How long have Kanaks people been exposed to money through indentured labour? What was the impact?

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Rila Mukherjee | University of Hyderabad, Gachibowli (Inde), School of Social Science – The Pervasiveness of a “Poors’ Money” in Bengal: 13th to 20th century

A first question came from the surprise that coinless societies are still carrying exchanges: in that sense they are not cashless. Second problem: some societies may have access to gold and silver but still prefer use other means of exchange such as cowries. What is the utility of these small medium of exchanges, which explain their use until the 19th c. as a circulating medium, and even in the 20th, still living in popular recognition.

Yesterday papers were from the 16th to the 19th c. Today, we will look at a very long time frame. It is not really money by the poor or money for the poor. Cowries were not intended as a money for the poor, but in time, they became the money for the poor.

Cowries circulated in four qualities (moneta and annulus being the main categories) and in a very wide space. A little bit about the networks of cowries, but we will here concentrate on Bengal.

In India they were not used at all if they were not in perfect shape. See also the new chronology born out from Chengdu discoveries, changing Han chronology, with very old bronze and gold cowries. Not in India. In India, in Bengal and next regions, only original cowries were used. But it is not limited to coastal areas: some are found in Northern India. They are related to a highly agricultural economy, from the 8th century on. Temples were also repositories of cowries: they were not just a circulating media but also religious or accumulated wealth.

All testimonies up to the 15th c. say that there was a lot of gold and silver (Harikela silver) but that people still used cowries. With the Islamic conquest of the East, wars, soldiers had to be paid. And cowries were not enough anymore, while huge commercial networks developed from the 11th c.

In the Western Indian Ocean, from the Indian side, we do not find continual cowry usage, especially after the 13th c. In Bengal, use and hoards of cowries are found until the 19th c. It seems that Bengal was less commercially integrated: cowries supported local trade and maybe regional as well. Bengal was indeed mainly a rural economy. Temples paid tribute and displayed images of means of value and merchant vessels and practices, thus Guns and muskets appeared early in temple imagery.

Is there a link between slave trade and shell money? It has been studied in Africa, but Bengal was also a slave economy: Bengal was depopulated by slavery. But at the same time, cowries and a variety of shell monies circulated here. Is there a relation?

Gold never lost its lustre, nor did cowries. We have archival references where rice and prices were exchanged and settled in cowries.

When British India started monetary reforms in the 19th c., rupees were exchanged, but cowries remained. What was then the significance of the use of cowries? Why despite having coins, Bengalese continued to use cowries? Silver is linked to strong intermediary exchange agents. And the lower class – the subsistence class – used cowries in their everyday life, leaving a linguistic trace up to today.


Marie Stella – Was that comparable to bimetallism?

A.: In India, the monetary system was mainly trimetallic. But there was no copper in Bengal, and cowries fulfilled that function.

Catherine Bregianni – Did shell money played the same role as the billon – link with the rural economy? Copper coins were in use because of the rural predominance of the economy.

A.: The main issue is rural. But that is a static picture of a very long period of time. Let’s go back to Lucassen’s regional variations: in Bengal there would be regional variations too, with the very strong presence of maritime trade from the 13th c. So are there relationships between villages producing staples and textiles and maritime exchange harbours?

Georgina Gomez – Were there prices that would translate amounts in cowries and silver?

A.: Yes but the evidence is fragmented. There are 100 years gaps on this. We also have transport prices with the cost of small crossings that had to be paid in cowries.

Catherine Baroin – What about the decoration aspect of cowries?

A.: No decoration, but in temples, holes existed were treasures were hold – interestingly, the medium was stored in the temple. But these temples were also used as nexus to exchange. And these temples served as marks on the shores for navigation. Maybe were they also storehouses. So a possible merchant economy could be linked to that.

Jan Lucassen – Sometimes we have production figures for coins. Can we derive from trade with Maldives an idea of the volume of cowry production? Slave raiding in Bengal – is there a link with cowries?

A.: No, there are not enough records to make time series. Why is Bengal going to Maldives? Maldives is a rice deficient economy and Bengal supplies rice there against cowries. Yet, the Malabar coast of India (Kerala) – adjacent to the Maldivses – does not use cowries as currency. So this relatively small value currency is transported over a huge maritime distance from the Maldives to Bengal. A glance at the map of India will bear this out. Pietro de Lavalle in the 17th c. was shipwrecked in the Maldives, where he witnessed Islamic ships from Bengal coming to raid the Maldives. At this time Maldives was shifting towards a silver coinage – the lari. Silver was the currency of the Indian ocean; but not of Bengal. Was this Bengali invasion an attempt to retain the Maldivian cowry system?

It is very speculative, but there was a link between cowries and the slave trade in Western Africa. Is there a possible link in Bengal also, where slave raids were organized by Portuguese and Arakanese?

There is no representation of cowries in wealth and temples. And when Ganesh or other gods depicting wealth are decorated, they do not use cowries. However, cowries played a part in death rituals in Bengal, when dead bodies were cremated a few cowries were put in the shroud, this was called “cowries of the last passage” (parani in Bengal—depicting a riverine passage) or journey.

The French archives on Bengal (Alfred Martineau, Correspondance du Conseil Supérieur de Pondichéry et de la Compagnie etc.) reference land bought by French Individuals and also the company in 18th c. Chandernagor using “ganda”—(that is an unit of 4 cowries). Was this just a unit of measurement or actual exchange value? This is not clear.

Jérôme Jambu – In my opinion, the role of cowries in the slave trade has been exaggerated. We have indeed a problem of sources about the French slave trade: never, in the records, do French ships bring cowries to Africa in order to buy slaves – and this is an important part of the slave trade; being the second most important slave traders in the Atlantic world, French do not use cowries. Do people exchanged cowries for something else? Did they not circulate locally instead of being used in the slave trade?

Sophie Laligant – On this issue, see Josette Rivallain.

A.: There was slavery on the African West coast but not on the East. The Swahili kingdom was much more developed. Textiles were used to buy slaves. In Bengal slave traders were not buying slaves, but raiding them. Then, there was the horse trade – you could not buy horses with cowries, but cowries were exchanged for silver to buy horses.

Jan Lucassen – Slaves were bought with clothes, but traders also exported cowries and beads for local circulation.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
rganization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Jan Lucassen and Rombert Stapel | International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam – Deep Monetization in the Low Countries. A case study of the copper coin circulation 1827/1828

This study covers current Belgium and Netherlands. It shows how difficult it is to relate occupational structure and small coinage.

  1. Differentiation of « general purpose money » according to numismatics and to archeology

A starting point is that the poor are the majority of the population. So the angle chosen is that of history of work. Weekly wages were paid in cash, in packets: coins, or banknotes… Until the late 1960s.

All kind of functions were associated to money: saving, wholesale trade, common purchases – and different currencies were in use.

  1. Deep monetization in general

This general outline was developed over the years. It is a concept to compare across time, countries and cultures, linked to hourly wages. Small coins are part of deep monetization if they have a value of one hour of work or less.

At a ratio of small coins supply to hourly wage of about ten and about, you have really high deep monetarization. At least in the 19th century, three regions do not compare to that: Northern Europe (occupational structure), Russia and the US (aftermath of slavery), Southern Europe (high figures in Spain and Portugal but they exported their coins to their colonies).

A big limit to the calculation of this ratio is the importance of token and notes circulation and also, especially in England, of book keeping credit.

It is not a teleological argument: the ratio sometimes goes down – see the end of the Roman empire.

  1. Sources

Archeologic evidence, not only because lack of written sources, but because they give a very different image as compared to written sources when they exist.

Relative market prices of common coins as a proxy for circulation.

Mints statistics.

Demonetization figures: suddenly one can count how many coins were demonetized. And real calculations started in the middle of the 19th.

The concept can be applied to the total of Eurasia for the last 2000 years: there was massive production of small denominations in Europe, India and China at that time.

  1. The Low Countries and a meso analysis

We started to map all the mints and coin productions sites, bearing in mind all the sources limits. Liège was a major producer of copper coins, but we have hardly any evidence of it.

It is important to study at the regional level or even at the micro level (something historians have done for decades, with probate inventories, wage payments, etc.), but there is problem: how representative are the data collected?

Natural experiment: the demonetization of old copper coins in the Low Countries, 1827-1828. But there are problems: in the northern part of the country, coins of the different provinces circulated. In the South, there were coins from Luxemburg, Liège, Spanish Low Countries in addition to those from the Netherlands… From its start, the new Kingdom had produced small coins, and so only in 1826 did the government think they had produced enough to recoin the remaining older coins in circulation.

66 collections points were established, giving detailed sources for this northern regions. For the south, there is only one nice volume in Liège and no correspondence. Nevertelss, it shows regional big differences. 4 main areas appear, 3 in current Belgium, 1 from current Netherlands. But in fact it is even more complex. Liège’s coins were used in the city area but also to its west down to the sea. Monetization also varied by region: stronger in the West than in the East. A long belt from Brussels to Liège and Verviers, but also near Groningen in the North, was more monetized.

  1. Provisional explanations

Our data showed expected but also unexpected patterns in monetization.

It also presented us with numismatic issues: to what extent were foreign coins used? Did people made coin rolls in paper to make larger payments that could replace silver?

  1. Unexpected results:

In West Flanderen, the high population density (highly proto-industrialized regions) comes with low level of monetization. One reason: they used Prussian and also French money.

Occupational structure: there is no yet evidence of a relationship – with no proper information for occupational structure for 66 districts, but only for larger regions. And the level of analysis is very important.

For example, the occupational structure (industry) does not match copper use (regional level). The same is true with the map of steam engines.

But we should also look at the different levels of hourly wage at the regional level.

  1. Conclusions

Still much work to do to reach clear results: need more information and data.


Jérôme Jambu – I expected a better correspondence between the maps. Two other factors are highlighted by Thuillier and Olivera: the role of specie buyers in the countryside, who offered agios and deposited the coins thus raked in places different from where they were collected. And where are the tax offices? Could these two factors explain the scale discrepancies?

A.: We planned to visit the SGB archives and the correspondences there. See also the prices and exchange rates in the North, or what the charitable institutions collected every Sunday in small change.

Anders Ögren – What about the difference between face value and content value?

Moya – You seem to all have the same assumption of an equivalence between the money of the poor and small change. Why? As anthropologists, we are usually stroke by the ways the poor can access huge amounts of cash. When it comes to daily life of course they use small change. But to what extent does the historical data back the fact that there is an equivalence between small change and money of the poor?

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
rganization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Maria Stella Chiaruttini | Institut universitaire européen (Florence) – “Change of silver coins is an inexpressible agony in these places”: The money of the poor and Italian unification

« I’m not an expert of the money of the poor, rather of the money of the rich. » The sources on money are produced by experts and upper class people, and address mainly the monetary concerns of the rich and middle classes. But some marginal comments and ideas give an idea of what is going on at a lower social level.Notably, we can see the effects of monetary unification on social and regional areas. For example in Southern Italy where were high inequalities.

At unification point, Italy was a “Babel of coins”, with 7 states, 124 legal coins and 145 non-conforming coins, plus foreign coins (sometimes accepted, sometimes not, with or without legal tariffs) and notes. On the eve of unification, monetary standards divided the North where gold prevailed from the South on a silver standard. The Two Sicilies had the largest coin circulation both on per capita basis and globally. It was thus a good deal for the North to annex the South that had a large silver circulation to be sold on the international markets to move to the gold standard at a premium because of the declining price of gold relative to silver in the 1860s. And money managers could use the French market as the place of exchange between silver and gold.

In the south especially, there were losses: instead of full weight copper coins, people were given bronze coins of lower value. Soon, the situation degraded because of tensions between South and North and international crises: would the Bourbon come back? Civil strife and hoarding of silver developed in case the unification was reversed… That led to financial problems and large banknotes issuance after 1866. The Piemontese national bank obtained at that time the right to issue inconvertible banknotes. At the same time, minting stopped.

In Sardinia, monetary conditions were appalling. Ruled by Piemont and the poorest region of the kingdom, even relatively affluent there were poor compared to the rich Italians. They also had inconvertible paper money of very small denominations, issued at the time of Napoleon, and still circulating in very poor conditions.

In Sicily and Naples, the silver money was reformed after the Napoleonic War and Naples mint was excellent. Besides, convertible paper money circulated. But most of the money was concentrated in Naples and the rest of the country was little moneyed. There were no banks, but “corn banks” lending in seeds rather than money. The South was conquered and Garibaldi and Northern armies brought new monies, but in the absence of money changers, the Northern coins stayed in circulation. Because of the situation, the local good coins disappeared or were hoarded or exported. Good silver coins vanished.

Monetary unification and recoinage were a problem. The exchange rate was unfair for the smaller coins. See deputy Allieri, 1860: “at the expenses of the popular classes”, or Briganti-Bellini in 1862. Access to money changers was also expensive and it was very difficult to protest against changers dishonesty. Another problem was that was a fractional currency was made up of silver coins, and the state was slow in replacing it, which affected the poor.

A new devaluated bronze currency replaced the copper coins, against the will of Southerners. A temporary government in Sicily kept a bimetallic standard instead of the previous silver standard. Soldiers and employees were paid in gold but had to change to silver for their purchases. Francis 2nd, the flight king, continued to finance the war from Roma with small change and copper coins, mostly forged coins.

In 1866, note inconvertibility was declared, creating a huge premium on specie (10 to 20%) and fuelling prices increase. The inconvertible money of the rich was high denomination banknotes. That created a tension on small change supply. But it also took some time to produce small notes and more bronze coins, and the latter enjoying a premium over paper, were largely exported to France.

Then manufacturers either printed their own scrips, or they could stop producing, or even delay the payment of wages: the smaller 50 liras banknotes were about equivalent to a month wage, so people were paid only after one month (men) or two month (women). That created a strong premium in favour of landowners and speculating retailers. The poorer were always on the loss side. The rural labourers were more or less insulated, because they were paid in kind. But sooner or later, even farmers had to access money – it was not a purely barter economy. Once very small notes were printed, they were of very bad quality, but quickly circulated in huge quantity. They stayed in circulation for the whole decade so that the poor were always transacting in small pieces of paper, some unrecognizable to the point they lost almost all value. And because of that, they were very easy to counterfeit.

So in the end, scrips and small banknotes were the most counterfeited as well as the most ubiquitous means of payment, to the point that in Palermo there was a parallel market for counterfeited money.


Jérôme Jambu – What are the sources for the monetary breakout between gold and silver?

A.: From parliamentary sources gathered to calculate the cost of recoinage.

Patrice Baubeau – What are the sources on the money of the poor?

A.: For instance, paradoxically there are references to the money of the poor in the archives of Bank of Italy precisely because of remarks on the bad quality of notes. Or because the Bank of Naples complained about the quality of their own notes – comments of technocrats. Usually there was no concern about the money of the poor, but about that of low middle classes. There are also other kinds of records.

Catherine Baroin – Is there a link between money and Mafia?

A.: Mafia probably started before the Bourbons, and were used by them as a relay. It would be perhaps possible to study the monetary circuits of the Camorra, that controlled the transactions at the lower level in Naples. And for what I know regarding forgeries, the counterfeiting was particularly important in Naples. But priests were also involved. Was this specialization due to technicality or to mafia?

Jan Lucassen – Was there a high level of small money?


Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Hisashi Takagi | Yasuda University – Means of exchange in small transactions in 16th century Japan: lower class bronze coins, silver currency, and credit use

The aim of the presentation is a case study of how bronze was used by common people in early modern Japan.

  Gold currency was a large currency rarely used by common people – it will not be discussed in this paper. The shortage of documents also prevent us from knowing about common people, and most documents were written by higher class people.

  Between 7th and 10th c. in Japan, zenis were the most used coins, but they stopped being issued. In the 11th c., they were replaced by imported Chinese bronze coins. Imitations soon emerged. These were also used as currency in Japan. This led to the resumption of copper production in Japan during the 12th and 13th c. Some coins were also produced without any inscription, and could still circulate. So inscriptions were not necessary. Another reason is that Japan did not produce tin, and tinless bronze could not be cast or minted with readable letters.

  During the 16th c. entrepreneurs hired craftsmen to produce coins, when the import of Chinese coins was discontinued, leading to a coin shortage. Coin production boosted as well as prices diminished. Another factor in these changes was civil wars.

  The supply side: imports decreased with late 16th c. events and the repression of coins smuggling by pirates. Chinese also started to mint counterfeited coins for export to Japan. All in all bronze coins imports in Japan ceased in the late 16th c.

  People used various coins, all with the value 1 mon (equivalent of 1 wen in China), thus being the standard coin. This principle went out of usage after the 16thc. and coins were hierarchized by size, leading to standard and substandard coins and the pluralization of coins.

  The regime accepted that hierarchization and defined the discount ratios of non-standard coins in 1569. For example the bita emerged from the Chinese coins scarcity. Bita refers to all coins except standard coins. Thus bita was worth less than 1 mon. But bita coins started to increase in parallel to the rising prices of rice. Thus, in 1570s, bita became the standard coin as it appreciated. The Oda regime in 1580 accepted to make bita the standard coin. Bita was distributed not only in the Oda domain but also outside: it was promoted through commercial practice and not political decisions. Its value was supported by merchant networks centred on Kyoto. Toyotomi Hideyoshi maintained the bita coin policy and defined it as his standard.

  A silver rush occurred in the 1st half of 16th c. At the same time almost all silver was exported to China. But because of its falling price (American competition) and bronze shortage, silver started to be used domestically. Thanks to this fall in value, the silver currency became convenient for small transactions, along small bronze. Silver was transacted by weight. Content and weight changed along manufacturers, which made silver rather inconvenient. The standardization of silver ingots ensued. And an official silver currency family was elected (Daikoku in Sakai) around 1590.

  Credit and book credit: credit worked in small transactions among commoners. Documents as early as the 14th c. See a famous trial related to cakes bought by Samurais. Credit permitted to reduce costs of transactions.


Common people used mainly bronze coins


Akinobu Kuroda – Copper coin 1st circulated at 1 mon, and later on the circulation stratified. But the exchange rate diverged region by region without relation to the actual content. Silver was introduced by weight, but monopolized by one merchant, under government rule.

A. : The bita value, variable from region to region, converged through social practice.

Anders Ögren – What about personal pledges and communal responsibility?

A. : Social practice: kunijichi: loan owner can request the debt to the debtor but also to the members of the same community.

Not sure of the relative value and number of coins. Sources do not allow for statistical analysis. In the Edo period, bita was not necessarily a counterfeited money, as it was the case in the medieval period.

Akinobu Kuroda – Historians say that in Edo period this currency was used to price rice. To make a price, they changed the quantity of rice. The transformation of the most important coins is related to how prices for food were designed and fixed.

A. : It is difficult to give a definitive answer, because of the shortage of documents.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Thibault Cardon | CNRS, Université de Caen Normandie, CRAHAM – Centre Michel de Boüard – Social control through money: “camp monies”

The idea here is to link monetary forms and social status, as well as poverty reproduction through money. This supposes to set aside the fiction that money is only a means to exchange and call for studying the plurality of monies, monetary artefacts, numismatics. The materiality of money is not a neutral characteristic as it participates in building social relations up to social control devices, especially in confinement places and areas, as shown in our four examples.

  1. A camp of medieval workers of the 13th c., using wage tokens (méreaux): the fortress of Pont de l’Arche, on the Seine river, which was excavated in 2011-2012.

  A very large quantity of small money-shaped lead objects were found, their diameter and stamped figures alike that of then and there circulating monies. TC proposes to interpret these méreaux as wage instruments for the payment of labourers on this royal construction site. They were apparently produced on site for direct use. The first attested cases of this practice date back to the second half of the 12th c., with coin types based on that of the Latin orient (R. Kool). Other examples followed, almost until today: Briard canal (1606), Dauphiné fortresses (1870), agricultural legion in the 19th c., etc.

  1. A German prisoner camps in Miramas (1944-1946), managed by the US army.

  This camp held about one thousand prisoners, but left almost no archival records: the main source is archeologic and led to the discovery of 200 coin-like objects:

  • About 30% are French coins, only aluminium ones
  • About 60% are German coins, only aluminium and zinc ones

  The monetary system of the camp was thus improvised based on the contemporary money supply.

  In the French-managed camps, on the contrary, specific paper notes were circulated by the War Ministry, bearing the words “bon pour” (value for) and stating that their use was limited to the camp limits. The idea was to prevent prisoners from buying goods from outside or even to finance an escape.

  There are numerous 19th and 20th c. cases of prison monies: Cayenne prison, prisons in Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark. In this latter case specific monies were issued as soon as the beginnings of the 19th c. We also find specific monies in concentration camps: military prisoners camps, Nazi camps, Boers camps.

  1. Military camps: the Boulogne-sur-Mer camp, 1803-1805

  Here also, archeologic excavation led to the discovery of 400 coins, which allow us to compare wage payment rules and practices. The daily soldier wage was 30 c. (0,30 FF) from which were defalcated laundry and food costs, letting a net 5 c. paid every 5 days – i.e. 25 c., which corresponds to a bronze coin at the time. And indeed excavations have produced only bronze and copper coins, but mainly older ones (16th and 17t royals, foreign coins, worn-out coins and even a few similar in size Roman coins). What it suggests is that the payers acquired the scum of the money supply.

  History presents us with other similar cases: payments in devalued coins, in foreign copper coins. Sometimes, special issuance of already devaluated monies to pay the troops (Brittany, 15th c.) or furus in 8th-9th c. Al-Andalus.

  This also raises the question of the payment of Roman troops, with the large amounts of counterfeited, locally coined or lead coins in Spain.

  1. Alms and poor assistance: no closed space but similar operations

  Religious establishments handed out méreaux to be exchanged for bread (Lille, 17th c.), often as counterpart to precarious and more or less compulsory labour. See the alms workshops in Limoges, 1771 in a grain shortage context: leather tokens were given as tasks were being done to be exchanged for bread and victuals, to make sure the purchasing power would be put to a right use. There is also the idea that workers are nourished in order to be more efficient. Parallels are traceable in many countries up to the 20th c.

  Shared characteristics:

  • Vile materials
  • Confusion-avoiding resemblance to legal coinage
  • Operation mode specific to the context
  • Fixed value (cours forcé) within the said context, calling for a closed circuit circulation


  • Less costly payments
  • Closed circuit circulation
  • Expenses control
  • Population control


  • Higher prices
  • Closed circuit circulation
  • Exchange costs

  A key aspect of these systems is that they are imposed by an authority upon a social category.

  This opens some perspectives in global history:

  • Clarify the notion of camp money
  • List contexts, examples and lexicon entries
  • Search for transmissions, genealogies
  • Question links to other forms of indentured/forced labour (see latifundia) or the systematic emergence of small change with slavery abolitions
  • Review the historical debate on concentration camps and their links to colonial contexts


Jérôme Jambu – Cayenne was most likely the name of a shop-keeping bagnard. Alms: the copper denier and double tournois were created under Henri III explicitly to give alms to the poor and were distributed to the Treasurer of the Alms (trésorier des charités). One problem when studying military camps, is that they appear in a context of crisis, most likely when precious metal coins have vanished. And in Boulogne, there is also the question of the presence of conscripts.

A. : See a letter from Napoléon 1st asking for the sending of 3 million FF in copper coins (600 metric tons) to pay the soldiers in Spain. May have been used as a ballast to ships.

Emmanuel Prunaux – Yes, but the copper was never sent. Mollien and others calculated that the cost of sending the copper would exceed its value!

Hisashi Takagi – In the case of prisoners camps, what were the incentives of the issuers? Low denomination would yield a small seignoriage.

Jan Lucassen – Moneta pauperum in Scotland 16th c. Make also difference with canteen money. Prisoners maybe also paid in coins. Is it on purpose you did not mention plantation money after the implementation of the indentured labour system?

A. : There are a few archival records on prisoners’ payments, but rarely about the material objects being used to that effect – typically the case for WW2 prisoners in France.

As for the haciendas etc., there is also the vocabulary instability issue: hacienda tokens (ficas in Spanish) are often confused with supplementary coins.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Mathieu Bidaux | Université de Rouen, GRHis – The Bank of France’s banknotes (1830-1857): a rich currency used by poor people?

This study on the circulation, use and users of banknotes rests on:

  • 15 inquiries on counterfeiting
  • 380 cases of partly destroyed banknotes

  When counterfeit banknotes emerged in the circulation, the Bank of France (BoF) assisted the police’s inquiry and registered the names, occupations and circumstances and described the banknote. But with a bias: those that were handed these banknotes in the first place had been duped. The same information was gathered on partly destroyed banknotes, with a somewhat lesser bias, that of people behaving with neglect. The database starts in 1830, when the circulation was sufficient to fuel a higher number of partly destroyed banknotes and stops in 1855, when their increased number led to a downgrading of the gathered information.

  The BoF’s banknotes was meant for the use of large or wholesale traders. Smaller denominations appeared in 1847 (200 FF) and 1848 (100 FF). They thus escaped poor people’s daily use, but surprisingly many cases of partly destroyed banknotes featured poor people. In fact, they used these banknotes for savings; or destroyed them by ignorance.

  Some indirect literary evidence points to the novelty that banknotes represented to poor people: Les Misérables, from Victor Hugo, or Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (père), or Les Mémoires d’un billet de banque, by Parseval deschènes. In the three examples, banknotes provoke fear or astonishment amongst the poor.

  In the case of BoF’s partly destroyed banknotes, many modest trades were involved, up to 40 or 45% of all registered cases. One reason is that they were ill-equipped to preserve their banknotes. But it is also interesting to remark their confidence in the banknotes, that represented sometimes all their savings. It also runs counter to the opinion of the board members of the BoF, opposed to reaching this sort of customers.

  It is also difficult to understand how these banknotes were acquired, except in a few specific cases (the cook of a Duke who received a 500 FF banknote, or a Rothschild house’s janitor). In some cases, the banknote partial destruction stem from the inability of the holder to identify its nature: for example, a worker use one to light his pipe.

  This source thus exhibit the variety of poor people’s attitudes towards banknotes, notably as a means of savings and also contradicts the common idea of a general resistance against the banknotes in France. But it also shows the strangeness of this currency to some, a proof enough that the banknote remained, up to the middle of the 19th c., a rich man means of payment.


Sophie Laligant – Would you rather call the neglect of some holders indifference or ignorance?

A. : Yes, rather ignorance.

Jérôme Jambu – There is a long tradition of hoarding metallic coins. Perhaps it is then not surprising that banknotes were dissimulated in the same caches as metallic coins. And what about the absence of resistance to receive banknotes? Maybe did they not have a choice? Remember the assignats and Law. Last comes the question of the poor people: were these people really poor? A farmer woman in the Paris basin is not necessarily poor. An example of a coin hoard at the same time in a rural setting: Tirepied hoard, Normandy, 2500 FF in 5 FF “écus”, 1824.

Frédérique Duyrat – Two notes: it’s important to draw a parallel with metallic savings. Still in the beginning of the 20th c. people in the UK buried banknotes. This behaviour raise the question of their access to appropriate means of preservation, and may explain the use of beams and mattresses. Such behaviour were very common in the past. In Ancient Greece, more than 5000 hoards have been uncovered, but we know that any rich Athenian kept hundreds of coins in his place.

Anders Ögren – How did the BoF inquire? Were banknotes a saving device?

Sophie Lalilgant – We must remember that it is very rare to find money, cash, in probate inventories. 

Emmanuel Prunaux – This hoarding behaviour appears also with the “mandats” (anterior to cheques) that remained in circulation months after their expiry date.

A. : Conversion to metal was always possible, provided that a bank was available.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Ekaterina Svirina | National Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU Higher school of Economics) – Money of the poor in the Russian Empire: study of the official documents and travel notes dated back to 19th c.

Usually the study of money is based on official mintage documents and bank statistics, eventually travel journals. The idea at this preliminary stage is to start with the social structure of the European part of Russian Empire (Mironov, 2003). It was dominated by the high percentage of peasants, while urban citizens represented a growing share.

  Mironov and Yanin distinguished among rich, middle and poor peasants using horses, since before serfdom abolition, it was not possible to classify them by income. What was a peasant before the reform? Poor and rich were linked to crop cycles: rich when the harvest was good, poor if not. Peasants were not only serving the landlord but also constrained by the community, which set the rules. These rules said you could not be rich if young or old and they valued income less than status and authority. The community also acted as a redistributive device: systematic redistribution of the land occurred among peasants, erasing any incitation to improve productivity. Taxes and duties were also redistributed: one considered rich had to pay for the poor. Besides, it was not allowed to work on (religious) holidays, with 95 of them during the year. These rules limited the difference between more productive and less productive peasants. Besides a common share value was to despise rich people and organize so as to limit enrichment of the most successful. The military draft could also be used to let poor people improve their social status. Thus, from childhood, peasants lived in a context where the community was more important than the individual.

  In that context, money allowed you to act individualistically. Was there a perception of possible profit? Profit and money were a sin. Usurers were not peasants – considered as people being enriched at the expense of communities. And interest rates were also a sin. This was still true in the 1880s – even on a saving account.

  But how did the peasants exchange between themselves: through credit relationships, mostly between richer and poorer people, in the form of products that obliged to give something back, usually in the form of work by the poor, their labour being underestimated (the rate is thus included into the labour price).

  In Siberia, there was another strata: nomads, living by hunting, fishing and selling their catches. These activities were also highly seasonal, and thus nomads lived on the credit extended by merchants to survive even during low season (Kushnareva, 2015), while merchants highly underestimated the value of the pelts.

  Another social strata of the Empire were citizens, most of them being poor but free. As such they used money, and for example as a merchant, you had to buy your freedom everywhere. Many historical descriptions show the use of credit and money.

 Mint production in small change shows clearly the boost in minting that came with emancipation. It seems in fact that the state did not know how to combine the denominations in most of the 19th c. Small silver minting shows more clearly the impact of the end of serfdom. It was also during this period that small change coins lost their silver component. In parallel, the quantity of coins minted from a same amount of metal increased over the 19th c.

  The community mind dominated in Russia until 1913 – it was thus the perfect place to use and apply communist conceptions.


Georgina Gomez – what about women peasants?

A. : The community decided who you marry and women and men lived in separate places within the house –a woman could not be single except a widow. And if a widow, she supported by the community.

Anders – Nomads were underpaid, and still they did come back?

A. : No competition in Siberia where just a few merchants operated. If you were in debt, where would you go? So no need for enforceability. And merchants sold addictive products (tobacco, alcohol). Nomads also got used to bread they’d never used before. Later on, state shops appeared to buy pelts, and merchants were driven out.

Jan Lucassen – stressing the we against the I, you may get a bit too far: where does stand the household that had extra sources of income (temporary labour in towns) that played a role in inequality; and seasonal work (10 million people). It makes the traditional idea much more full of tensions. And that may explain the success of the small copper and silver coins after 1861. In the 18th century you also had periods of relaxation to allow peasants to go to cities and then copper coins minting went up. Thus, more households were included in the monetarized society (Tracy Dennison, more important after 1861).

A. : The community allowed or forbid a person to go. The villages close to towns had less rights on villagers and temporary labour workers came mainly from these villages.


Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Jérôme Jambu | BNF, Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques – A monetary economy among French West Indies slaves?

The initial question aims at a historiographic blank: did slaves access money? And if, which? If not, why?

  When colonized, the French West Indies were not conceived as a monetarized territory, in compliance with mercantilist ideas: only transatlantic barter trade was authorized. Also, sugar stepped in a as substitute for local exchanges, but paper notes and promissory bills had an even larger role

  Coins being in a high demand in local exchange and for daily wage payments, this led to limited authorizations during the 17th and 18th c., especially for paying troops. French soldiers in the West Indies were paid half in silver coins and half in victuals, both being mostly imported from France. These imported coins were billons, i.e. 80% copper and 20% silver coins, making the colonies an outlet to the French bad currencies.

  Nevertheless, the dearth of small change for daily exchanges being scathing during both centuries, people had to fund ways around, for example smuggling coins from neighbouring Portuguese and Spanish American colonies. But these were mostly large silver and gold coins, that even cut in fractions remained far too expensive for daily trades.

  At the same time, slaves represented the majority of the population, but were deprived, according to the successive Black Codes (BC), from almost any property. Nevertheless, art. 29 of the 1685 BC entitled them to hold a nest-egg if authorized, either in bulk or money, and to trade with these goods. These provisions were re-enacted in the 1725 C.

  Besides, most slaves hold small tilling spaces, in order to attach them to the land and prevent their marooning. But these small gardens opened a potential for trade and revenues: a 1664 decision allows slaves to go and sell on the market if authorized. The 1685 BC, even if in a very restrictive manner, refers to the “nigger markets” – the market they can access, as separated spaces in market places.

  Consequently, can slaves earn money in coins? Spend it? Sources are scarce, but a witness states that the reduction of the value of the smallest coins would aggravate the slaves’ misery, by reducing their gains, which they use mainly for buying garment textiles, which cost their masters could not bear. This bears witness of the possibility for slaves to earn money by participating in the market and to make purchases with this money.

  But what money was that? Not silver, but small change. An attempt by French authorities to introduce copper coins in the free population 1763 failed – they would be accepted only in 1793. Only slaves accepted copper and low silver content billon, as shown by a few archeologic discoveries in two sugar plantations.

  Another hint is given by the 1803 reformation that imposed a “G” mark on all gold coins in order to control Portuguese monies. Astonishingly, this same G mark were also struck on French copper coins and even on bad copper coins including a Roman one!

  Why thus mark copper coins, at the time of slavery re-establishment? To avoid marooning by preventing slaves to leave Guadeloupe with monetary resources.


Jérôme Blanc: Were there contacts and monetary exchanges between slaves and non-slaves?

A.: tilling slaves could access only the “nigger market” and exchanges only between themselves. But house slaves, notably washerwomen could work for other people and thus get paid.

Jan Lucassen: Are there some evidence from probate inventories from free persons that some slaves are indebted to free people?

A: the probate inventories are inly for free persons, but there is not one evidence of a claim upon a slave: it was forbidden to lend money or sell land to a slave.

Duran: How important were the exchanges through notes and without money?

A: They were considerable among free people, but not with slaves: notaries were barred from registering deeds with slaves. And slaves did not let any written record.

Sophie Laligant: Was there some form of land appropriation linked to small coins?

A: Small gardens were not appropriated by slaves. The questions of how space and property are defined are very sensitive questions.

Frédérique Duyrat: Is there evidence of monetary hoards?

A: No monetary hoard has been yet found in French-American colonial territories.

Jan Lucassen: Does small change included beads?

A: No, despite their high number in public collections.

Maria Stella – how French merchants were selling to slaves? Through wholesalers?

A: The trade between France and the West Indies was operated by wholesalers, and it’s only in the islands that the products entered retail trade. Colonial free men must have smuggled small coins to feed the local economy.

Abstract of workshop : Money of the poor (4 – 5 July / Juillet 2019)
Organization : Patrice Baubeau, U. Paris Nanterre / IDHES (UMR8533)
Grant UPL (Université Paris Lumières) 2019/2021

Programme – Program

Colloque de Cerisy – Seminar of Cerisy
(11 au 18 mai 2021)

Organisateurs : Patrice Baubeau, Martial Poirson, Yann Toma

ATTENTION : Ce programme provisoire est celui qui avait été adopté pour juin 2020. Il est susceptible d’être entièrement modifié en fonction des disponibilité des participants et de l’évolution de la situation

Accueil des participants : Mardi 11 mai


Ce colloque interdisciplinaire porte sur les relations entre les arts et l’économie d’hier à aujourd’hui. En effet, les formes de production, de représentation et de réception de l’art à travers les âges sont indissociables du système économique de leur temps, sans en être pour autant une simple transposition tandis que la mise en fiction de l’économie, sa réalité parfois portée à la critique, sublimée ou transformée par l’art, autorisent de subtiles stratégies d’infiltration, de détournement, de subversion de l’attribution de la valeur. D’où l’existence d’un rapport de fascination et de répulsion mutuelle entre art et argent. Ce dialogue complexe s’éclaire en interrogeant la position des œuvres, des artistes et des publics, mais aussi, de façon symétrique, les modalités de captation des gestes artistiques au sein de l’activité économique proprement dite. Le travail créateur s’insère ainsi dans la production de valeur marchande comme dans ses processus de créance, tout en interrogeant ses modalités d’évaluation, de distribution ou d’appropriation, sous leurs formes économiques, sociales, politiques, culturelles et symboliques. Le colloque accordera une large place à la recherche-création et à l’expérimentation artistiques des objets et mécanismes économiques (monnaie, actions). Il articulera relecture de textes canoniques, paroles de penseurs de différentes disciplines, expérimentations d’artistes et rencontres avec des acteurs de l’économie.

Mots-clefs :
Économie, Littérature, Arts, Fiction, Argent, Monnaie, Crise, Créance. 


Mercredi 12 mai : Écritures de l’argent – 9h15

Présidence de la journée : Claire Pignol (Université Paris 1)

9h30 : Introduction générale au colloque
  • Conférence inaugurale : Patrice Baubeau, Martial Poirson
  • Présentation de l’atelier récurrent (entreprise fictive, exposition, installation, performance) : Yann Toma
  • Présentation de l’Agence de notation ArTec : Christophe Hanna, Nancy Murzilli 
Première Table ronde : Les théâtres de l’argent

Table ronde animée par Claire Pignol, avec Guillaume Cot (Université Paris 8), Beatrice Schuchardt (Université de Münster)

12h30 : Déjeuner et visite du château

15h30 : Seconde Table ronde : Les commerces du théâtre

Table ronde animée par Claire Pignol avec Romain Jobez (Université de Poitiers), Isabelle Barbéris (Université Paris 7)

Conférence : Christine Baron (Université de Poitiers), Flux monétaires à l’état gazeux

21h : Atelier : Lecture de textes littéraires

Jeudi 13 mai : Figurations, motifs, tropes économiques – 9h30

Présidence de la journée : Arnaud Orain (Université Paris 8) 

Conférence-performance : Emmanuel Bouju (Professeur de littérature comparée à la Sorbonne Nouvelle), Credit Crunch. Pour une poétique de l’insolvabilité

Première Table ronde : Pertes et profits

Table ronde animée par Arnaud Orain avec Marius Warholm Haugen (Université des sciences et techniques de Norvège), Claire Pignol (Université Paris 1)

12h30 : Déjeuner

Deuxième Table ronde : Déclinaisons, circulations

Table ronde animée par Arnaud Orain avec Marie-Laure Massei-Chamayou (Université Paris 1), Christophe Rioux (Institut d’études politiques), Ludovic Desmedt (Université de Dijon)

17h-19h00 : Atelier : Dématérialisation des objets monétaires

Aude Launay sur cybermonnaies et Blockchain

Vendredi 14 mai : Postures et impostures artistiques. Statements – 9h15

Présidence de la journée : Yann Toma (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne)

9h30 : Conférence-performance

Yann Toma, De Marcel Duchamp aux entreprises critiques – Chèque en bois, sociétés fictives et libération de capital artistique

Première Table ronde : Stock Exchange

Table ronde animée par Yann Toma avec Christophe Domino (commissaire d’exposition, auteur, critique), Jacinto Lageira (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) et Res Ingold (artiste, fondateur d’Ingold Airlines, Cologne), Marion Laval-Jeantet (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

12h30 : Déjeuner

Deuxième Table ronde : Désorientations

Table ronde animée par Yann Toma avec Isabelle de Maison Rouge (commissaire d’exposition, historienne de l’art), Stephen Wright (critique, commissaire d’exposition) et Agnieszka Komorowska (Université de Mannheim)

Soirée : Dimension artistique des objets monétaires et financiers

Conférence-débat : Arnaud Manas (Banque de France)

Projection-débat des deux documentaires sur l’affaire Bojarski

– Le documentaire récent : Olivier Hennegrave (avec Jean-Baptiste Antoine, Gildas Alexandre), Le Cézanne de la fausse monnaie, Label Image, Diffusé sur La Cinq le 13 janvier 2019 – http://www.film-documentaire.fr/4DACTION/w_fiche_film/55136_1

– Le documentaire ancien : Office national de radiodiffusion télévision française, Porte ouverte à la police judiciaire : 4ème et dernière partie, 1970, INA : https://www.ina.fr/video/CAF96026498


Samedi 15 mai : Offshore tour – Île de Tatihou

12h30 : Pic-Nic sur place

14h-17h : Atelier

Animé par Collectif RYBN – Jersey, médiateur des échanges économiques et culturels

Dimanche 16 mai : Rhétorique des économistes – 9h15

Présidence de la journée : Yann Moulier-Boutang (UTT de Compiègne)

9h30 : Conférence : Éric Méchoulan (Université de Montréal)

Fausse monnaie et vérité artistique

10h30-12h15 : Première Table ronde : Fictions d’économistes

Table ronde animée par Yann Moulier-Boutang avec Sophie Cras (Université de Paris 1-Sorbonne), Annika Nickenig (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Arnaud Orain (Université Paris 8)

12h30 : Déjeuner

Deuxième Table ronde : Le style des économistes

Table ronde animée par Yann Moulier-Boutang avec Alexandre Péraud (Université de Bordeaux 3), Benoît Walraevens (Université de Caen) et Christophe Reffait (Université de Picardie)

Lundi 17 mai : Fables et mythologies de l’économie – 9h15

Présidence de la journée : Éric Méchoulan (Université de Montréal)

Matinée libre

14h00 : Conférence liminaire : André Orléan (PSE)

17h00 – Table ronde : Imaginaires économiques 

Table ronde animée par Éric Méchoulan avec Élise Sultan-Villet (Université Paris 1), et Slaven Waelti (Université de Bâle)

Conférence de clôture : Yann Moulier-Boutang (UTC, Revue Multitudes)

L’abeille et l’économiste

Départ : Mardi 18 mai

Appel à contribution – Call to proposal

Colloque de Cerisy – Seminar of Cerisy (11 au 18 mai 2021)

Organisateurs : Patrice Baubeau, Martial Poirson et Yann Toma

Toutefois, en raison du report du colloque de juin 2020 à mai 2021, un nouvel appel pourrait être ouvert.

« L’argent est la seule création culturelle qui soit de pure énergie, qui se soit complètement abstraite de son support matériel, n’étant plus qu’absolu symbole. Il est le plus significatif des phénomènes de notre temps, dans la mesure où sa dynamique a envahi le sens de toute théorie et de toute pratique ».

Georg Simmel, Journal, cité dans L’Argent dans la culture moderne [1928], Laval-Paris, Presses de l’université de Laval-Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2006, p. 5.

L’assertion de Georg Simmel situe d’emblée l’argent, qui selon lui relève de la « pure relation », parmi les productions culturelles abstraites de tout référent matériel. Le sociologue de la Philosophie de l’argent postule donc une relation homologique entre monnaie et langage, considérés comme deux régimes de créance fondés sur l’arbitraire du signe et la nature purement conventionnelle de la valeur nominale qui leur est attribuée.

  Même si la reconnaissance de ce nominalisme partagé accrédite l’hypothèse au fondement du projet de ce colloque, ce dernier n’emporte pourtant pas la conviction. En effet, cette relation entre monnaie et langage est un topos ancien de la réflexion religieuse et laïque sur la monnaie, qui noue et dénoue les fils de la croyance, du discours, du sacré, de l’oblation et de la forme même de la pièce dans un entrelacs d’arguments rhétoriques essentiellement réversibles. Il faut donc mettre l’argent et le langage, ou plutôt l’idée que l’un comme l’autre ne seraient que de pures conventions et à ce titre homologues, à distance. Et cette distance, c’est encore le langage qui la fournit, la construit, ou plutôt le discours que ce langage permet, tout comme la monnaie permet le déploiement de l’économie d’échange.

  Le nominalisme figure ainsi une clé d’entrée dans la question de la monnaie et, partant, de l’économie, précisément parce qu’il présuppose, en plus du langage, le discours ou le récit. Mais autant le nominalisme demeure fondamentalement indémontrable au niveau du langage comme de la monnaie – ainsi qu’en témoignent les fables rendant compte de leurs origines, autant le présupposé d’une relation homologique entre économie et littérature semble davantage fondé. En effet, de nombreux travaux révèlent la similitude entre ces deux dispositifs transactionnels, autrement dit entre crédit (du côté de l’économie) et créance (du côté de la littérature), reposant sur des régimes de fictionnalité comparables, en dépit des apparences.

  Comprendre cette proximité fondamentale implique de considérer dans le long terme la façon dont notre conscience collective s’est attachée aux faits économiques. Il s’agit aussi bien d’analyser l’expérimentation des concepts, modèles, mécanismes et idées de l’économie, à l’œuvre dans la littérature et les arts, que d’étudier le recours aux procédés littéraires (rhétoriques, stylistiques et fictionnels) et aux dispositifs artistiques par la théorie et la pratique de l’économie. Cette double démarche converge vers un même objectif : établir une généalogie de la culture économique, envisagée comme construction symbolique commune à la science économique, à l’écriture littéraire, aux pratiques spectaculaires et aux discours médiatiques.

  Elle révèle la convergence, la configuration mutuelle ou la conflictualité entre ces champs disciplinaires, de façon à en dégager le soubassement anthropologique commun autant que les questionnements croisés. Ainsi comprise, cette culture économique permet aussi d’éclairer les limites de l’homologie et en particulier celle-ci que le langage a beaucoup plus à dire sur la monnaie que ne le peut l’économie, tant cette dernière n’est réflexive qu’à travers le premier.

  Ce colloque favorisera les expériences pratiques (création d’une monnaie dédiée à l’événement, mise en place de systèmes transactionnels, infiltration du colloque par une entreprise artiste, ateliers d’écriture créative).

  Il privilégiera deux axes de réflexion :

  • L’expérimentation littéraire de l’économie

  Il s’agit d’établir l’archéologie de la fiction économique, envisagée comme une construction sociale et symbolique, à l’heure où la théorie littéraire, notamment la littérature comparée, se dote de méthodes susceptibles d’appréhender les nouveaux territoires de la fiction. Si elle fournit les outils pertinents d’analyse de cette fiction économique, l’analyse littéraire offre également un champ privilégié d’expansion et d’expérimentation pour son langage, son imaginaire et ses représentations, qu’elles soient dominantes ou plus marginales au regard de la doxa officielle. Contribuant à la diffusion des connaissances économiques, l’écriture d’invention en met à l’épreuve les faits, comportements, institutions, paradigmes… Le texte littéraire est littéralement investi par la fiction économique, dont il déconstruit ou démystifie les systèmes d’accréditation à travers ses procédés de mise en abyme ou de mise à distance autoréflexive. Selon les époques, les genres littéraires peuvent être plus ou moins poreux à l’économie. Les périodes charnières de crise sont propices à l’épanouissement d’une intense production de fictions économiques. L’analyse sur longue période permet par conséquent de montrer l’émergence précoce du thème obsessionnel de la monnaie et du motif de l’argent, jusque dans ses figurations les plus marginales1, puis la colonisation de l’imaginaire contemporain par une science économique devenue hégémonique quant aux représentations du monde, ce qui représente peut-être une nouvelle fiction, une autre manière de nous raconter ce monde, entraînant des effets sociaux tout à fait objectifs, et témoignant du caractère performatif du langage à travers le récit économique. 

  • La littérarité de l’économie

  C’est pourquoi il convient également d’interroger les régimes de fictionnalité mis en œuvre par la rhétorique des économistes, née dans les fables et fictions pensantes de l’économie politique à l’âge classique et devenue lingua franca de nos sociétés postmodernes. Débordant fréquemment la stricte sphère de l’économie scientifique positiviste, laquelle ne se prive pas de construire des mondes imaginaires et métaphoriques pour appuyer ses monstrations, à la faveur de la percée d’une vulgate économiste perceptible aussi bien dans le discours politique que dans le storytelling entrepreneurial et médiatique, l’économie devient dès lors un système global de perception, de signification, de communication et de légitimation au sein du capitalisme avancé. La démarche proposée par le colloque cherche à dévoiler les effets de discours qui accompagnent les argumentations de nature économique, dévoilant en cela qu’en dépit des apparences, l’économie n’a jamais rompu avec ses racines de science morale. Passée au crible de l’interprétation littéraire, les rhétoriques économiques révèlent leurs stratégies discursives, mais également l’inconscient culturel au fondement d’une vision normative et donc morale (le bien, le juste) du monde. On peut notamment s’interroger sur les conditions d’apparition de métaphores associées à l’économie, qu’elles soient d’usage courant ou consacrées par tel auteur ou telle théorie. Ces métaphores économiques trahissent des logiques d’euphémisation des rapports de domination, de sublimation des réalités économiques et de compensation symbolique ou encore viennent opérer un choix signifiant parmi les virtualités multiples de modèles autrement indécidables.

  Par ailleurs, rares sont les disciplines aussi imagées au sein des sciences sociales, mettant en scène quantité de graphes, cartes ou schémas. Le « tournant linguistique » de l’économie est marqué par l’irruption du langage et de la communication dans la sphère de la production : les mots font désormais écran aux réalités économiques ou pour le moins, ont vocation à les sublimer. Par la stylisation ou la réduction de la complexité des faits sociaux que l’énoncé d’une norme économique permet, elle déploie un pouvoir d’affabulation à vocation hégémonique et auto-réalisatrice. Ainsi, la rhétorique économiste, telle qu’elle a émergé depuis la première modernité, conduit à une véritable poétique originale, progresivement étendues à toutes les manifestations du pouvoir et de la richesse dont l’interprétation littéraire peut utilement décrypter les stratégies discursives, les implicites et les implications idéologiques.

  Prière d’envoyer vos propositions de contributions (2500 signes), avec une courte notice bio-bibliographique (500 signes), avant le 30 mars 2019 à Patrice Baudeau (patrice.baubeau@u-paris10.fr) et Martial Poirson (martial.poirson@yahoo.fr)

1 Florence Magnot-Ogilvy et Martial Poirson (dir.), Économies du rebut : Poétique et critique du recyclage au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Desjonquères, 2012.

Origines et buts du projet – Origins and aims of the Project


L’analyse des échelles sociales de l’argent vise à dépasser l’idée que la monnaie ne représente qu’une pure quotité de valeur. Il s’agit ainsi de comprendre, par l’étude des spécificités matérielles, techniques et symboliques de la « monnaie des pauvres », le sens de cette fiction, nécessaire et consentie, d’une « monnaie commune » en même temps que d’évaluer les coûts, les bénéfices et les conditions d’accès aux services apportés par la monnaie.

 La démarche proposée consiste à partir de « la monnaie des pauvres », c’est-à-dire du matériel monétaire utilisé principalement par cette fraction de la population, généralement majoritaire, qui ne dispose pas de l’accès aux formes de monnaie les plus élaborées (fortes monnaies d’or dans les régions eurasiatiques où elles circulaient ; comptes en banque dans l’Europe occidentale du XIXe siècle…), mais qui dépend pour sa vie quotidienne de l’accès à des objets monétiformes variés : « petites » pièces de monnaies, monnaies « divisionnaires », substituts monétaires et autres jetons, billets privés, reconnaissances de dettes, etc. On écarte ainsi les comportements monétaires de la fraction la plus riche de la population mais, de manière intéressante, on remplace l’évaluation de l’importance relative d’un moyen de paiement en fonction des montants concernés par une évaluation en fonction de la quantité d’objets monétaires. Une illustration contemporaine de ce contraste : en France les paiements en espèces représentent plus de la moitié des actes de paiements des particuliers, mais à peine 5 % du montant cumulés des paiements.

  Cet accent mis sur les coûts d’usage et sur les bénéfices tirés de l’accès à la monnaie permet aussi d’interroger, à la suite des travaux menés notamment par Jan Lucassen, la place et le rôle de l’argent dans la définition et la réalisation du revenu des plus pauvres. Ces travaux démontrent une relation réciproque entre l’augmentation de la fréquence d’usage de la monnaie, les formes prises par la rémunération du travail (en particulier l’existence du salariat) et enfin les moyens de paiement disponibles. De même, Akinobu Kuroda montre comment l’existence de marchés nombreux, fréquents et accessibles dans la Chine moderne et contemporaine favorise, même dans un contexte d’interconnaissance, un essor des échanges anonymes, alimentés le cas échéant par des monnaies locales. De telles approches comparatives permettent une relecture du matériel monétaire au sens le plus concret, en lien avec la place du travail et du marché dans la vie des femmes et des hommes les plus modestes. Elles enrichissent ainsi l’apport de Viviana Zelizer qui montrait l’affectation de l’argent à des usages différents en fonction de son origine, mais aussi selon des critères sociaux ou de genre.

  Cette enquête soulève aussi le problème de la mise à disposition de ces moyens monétaires et du pouvoir ainsi institué dans un objet (matériel ou virtuel) vis-à-vis de biens, services et capacités disponibles dans la société environnante. Il est en effet peu probable que le pouvoir monétaire ainsi confié aux « pauvres » puisse avoir la même étendue ou la même intensité que le pouvoir monétaire inscrit dans les moyens de paiement les plus élaborés. Les formes locales d’usages monétaires reflètent ainsi les pouvoirs relatifs des utilisateurs comme leurs positions sociales et genrées, les objets monétiformes pouvant incorporer une part importante de prestige social, que l’on retrouve aujourd’hui dans les cartes de paiement « exclusives » mais aussi dans la fraîcheur de billets de banque neuf comparés à des billets ayant circulés et donc souillés.

  Dès lors, l’étude des « échelles monétaires » peut renouveler l’étude des dénivellations économiques, sociales et politiques et à interroger le rôle qu’y joue la monnaie. Pour ce faire, nous comptons mesurer la qualité et la quantité de pouvoir – monétaire, social, symbolique – inscrites dans les différents instruments monétaires, notamment en fonction de leur dénomination (échelle quantitative) ou de leurs critères d’accès (échelle discriminante), à rebours des interprétations considérant les monnaies comme de simples séquences de valeurs parfaitement substituables.

The analysis of the social scales of money aims to go beyond the idea that money represents only a pure quantity of value. The aim is thus to understand, through the study of the material, technical and symbolic specificities of the “money of the poor”, the meaning of this necessary and agreed fiction of a “common currency” at the same time as evaluating the costs, benefits and conditions of access to the services provided by money.

  The proposed approach consists in starting from the “money of the poor”, i.e. the monetary material used mainly by this fraction of the population, generally a majority, which does not have access to the most elaborate forms of currency (strong gold coins in the Eurasian regions where they circulated; bank accounts in Western Europe in the 19th century…), but which depends for its daily life on access to various monetiform objects: “small” coins, “fractional” coins, monetary substitutes and other tokens, private notes, IOUs, etc. This excludes the monetary behaviour of the richest part of the population but, interestingly, replaces the assessment of the relative importance of a means of payment according to the amounts concerned with an assessment based on the quantity of monetary objects. A contemporary illustration of this contrast: in France, cash payments represent more than half of individuals’ payments, but barely 5% of the cumulative amount of payments.

  This focus on user costs and the benefits of access to money also raises questions, following the work carried out by Jan Lucassen in particular, about the place and role of money in defining and achieving the income of the poorest. These studies show a reciprocal relationship between the increase in the frequency of money use, the forms taken by labour remuneration (most notably the existence of wage labour) and finally the means of payment available. Similarly, Akinobu Kuroda shows how the existence of numerous, frequent and accessible markets in modern and contemporary China, even in a context of frequent individual relationships, encourages the development of anonymous exchanges, fuelled where necessary by local currencies. Such comparative approaches allow a re-reading of monetary material in the most concrete sense, in relation to the place of work and the market in the lives of the most modest women and men. They thus enrich Viviana Zelizer’s contribution, which shows how the money was allocated to different uses according to its origin, but also according to social or gender criteria.

  This survey also raises the problem of the availability of these monetary resources and the power thus instituted in an object (material or virtual) vis-à-vis goods, services and capacities available in the surrounding society. It is unlikely that the monetary power thus entrusted to the “poor” can have the same scope or intensity as the monetary power enshrined in the most sophisticated means of payment. Local forms of monetary usage thus reflect the relative powers of users such as their social and gendered positions, monetiform objects being able to incorporate a significant share of social prestige, which are now found in “exclusive” payment cards but also in the freshness of new banknotes compared to notes that have circulated and therefore soiled.

  Consequently, the study of “monetary scales” can renew the study of economic, social and political differences and question the role played by money in them. To do this, we intend to measure the quality and quantity of power – monetary, social, symbolic – in the various monetary instruments, in particular according to their name (quantitative scale) or their access criteria (discriminating scale), against interpretations that consider currencies as simple sequences of perfectly substitutable values.

Patrice Baubeau