From a related question, I'm now looking to compare the size of European treasuries as they existed at the end of the Seven Years War (1763).

I'm only interested in gold and silver that existed in official treasuries. The Empires I'm interested in are Portugal, Spain, Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Denmark-Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Ottoman.

Estimates are OK. I can make a guess and say that the Spanish Empire had the largest, because of their gold and silver fleets from the Americas (and that Spain didn't join the war until 1762 so they probably didn't drain their finances like France did). However, "largest" is too vague for me. I want to know how large and how much larger it was compared to the others. For this we need figures for each empire.

I've come across very little hard data, probably the best of which is this site for gold, but it only gives numbers to the Bank of England. The closest Wikipedia chart I found was disappointingly this historical GDP table, but the nearest dates are 1700 and 1820 and it's only GDP, not silver or gold of treasuries.

  • 1
    Why do you specify "gold and silver" ?
    – MCW
    May 8, 2016 at 2:30
  • @MarkC.Wallace I'm not interested in softer forms of currency, such as paper bills or credit of any kind. Softer currency might not be accepted for trade among other empires, especially the really distant ones like China and Japan. Another example is neutral empires during war, which might not accept soft money. Gold and silver are the hardest currencies there are.
    – DrZ214
    May 8, 2016 at 2:54
  • little pieces of the puzzle: in 1650 after expelling the Dutch from Brazil and Africa, POR was broke and owing money to banks all over Europe. Do not expect century-old reserves in POR. But, around 1700 gold from Minas Gerais (look for São João del Rei and Vila Rica - 800t of gold in XVIII c.) started to come. As POR imported much high-value stuff from ENG, the gold on the Bank of ENG should be a significant part of the total. POR also spent a lot to rebuild Lisbon after the earthquake.
    – Luiz
    May 13, 2022 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


It is worth refuting the assumption made by OP that the European money supply in 1763 was solely specie, quoting from the conclusion of The Seven Years War and the Old Regime In France: The Economic and Financial Toll, by James C. Riley.

It is true that this war, like other old regime wars, temporarily reversed the flow of specie and changed the composition of the money stock, enlarging the portion in paper and cutting the part in specie. After the war, however, the specie stock quickly regained its prewar level. And in this instance much of the paper put into circulation during the war remained in circulation, without the larger overall money supply leading to immediate inflation. Only in 1766 did prices begin to rise, and then the cause seems real—harvest shortfalls—rather than monetary.

Further, from The Price of Empire: Britain's Military Costs During the Seen Years War by Jeremy Land (2010) we find:

In the 16th century, monarchies started to utilize various forms of public debts more widely, for example in the form of rentes in France. Yet, it was the birth of the consol in Britain that marked the beginning of the history of modern public debt. Consols were redeemable at par but otherwise perpetual, enabling the government to raise large amounts of capital in a crisis situation. Ultimately, a nation also had to introduce other institutional and organizational innovations, such as stock markets and central banks, to be able to tap into its financial resources more effectively. This Dutch/British model became the cornerstone for the emerging fiscal states, and the British system of public debt was emulated throughout the Western world in the 19th century.

  • 2
    I never made such an assumption. I never stated in this question (or my previous one) that actual gold/silver is the sole money or money supply in Europe. I specifically said "I'm only interested in gold and silver" because I know there are other types of money...types that I'm just not interested in.
    – DrZ214
    May 8, 2016 at 2:00
  • 1
    @DrZ214 This is what's called a "frame challenge" -- if you specify criteria or underlying assumptions that make for a bad question, people will push back.
    – Spencer
    May 15, 2022 at 19:02

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