Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

After the Roman Empire's slow decline, and its withdrawal from much of northern Europe (France, Germany, Britain), gold coin use seems to have declined to the point where it would be a rare to see any. For example, in the archaeological record, huge silver hoards have been found in Britain and Scandinavia, but gold is extremely rare.

Why was this? Was there an economic or logistical reason for the decline of gold use in this period? Or were their political factors involved with trade agreements from the old empires, and the emerging powers in central and northern europe?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The silver denarius was the principal coin of the Roman Republic and Empire. The denarius remained an important Roman coin until the Roman economy began to crumble. As the Roman economy crumbled, the denarius which had proliferated the empire began to be adapted to local needs. The medieval period for almost all regional economies is marked by re-use of Roman coinage. It's legacy can be seen in that the word was preserved in most Romance languages; denier in French, the dinero in Spanish, denari in Italian, and denar in Hungarian.

The later 5th and 6th centuries are very murky in almost every way, and coinage is no exception. The once vigorous late Roman monetary system lay in tatters, with almost no new minting and very little importation of new coins. Nevertheless, it is apparent that coinage never faded away completely, and that re-use of the existing supply of coinage continued throughout the period.

It is worth noting that few gold coins were struck in the West since the fall of the Roman Empire. Gold coins were in circulation, of course, but the West simply made use of existing coins as well as new coins from Byzantium or Islam. There actually was a ‘gold’ phase of currency in England, which began with an increase in the rate of importation of continental gold, principally in the form of tremisses. By the middle of the 7th century the quantity of gold in these coins had declined rapidly, and by the 670s they were more or less completely silver. Existing silver seems to have been sufficient, even with debasement occuring.

The first European gold coin struck in sufficient quantities to play a significant commercial role since the seventh century was the Florin, provided by Florence in 1252. Gold coins had also been occasionally struck as commemorative pieces for big events, but this was the first that was intended as currency.

A wonderful insight into the history of the english coinage during the period you are interested in:

History of English penny (600-1066)

History of the Gold Florin

share|improve this answer
    
I'm a bit confused: this answer is quite interesting, but how does it answer this question? –  Lohoris Mar 1 at 9:52
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.