Gidday. From the 1930s British social historians of a marxist bent were deeply interested in the concept of time series of price-wage or price-capital structures. This is basically a way of saying "How do we measure 'worth' socially over time." British historians like MM Postan were interested in this problem for multiple reasons:
- Many British historians were marxist: Britain had the first successful industrial boot of capitalism (Marxian sense), and so an undue emphasis was placed on British history. British historians had access to high quality data because of the lack of monstrous early modern wars in Britain. (Britain's early modern wars were merely horrific.) And so they attempted to figure out the price of beer in 1300 and 1930. … More fool them.
- If we can figure out how long term pricing works we can figure out how things are changing and potentially do things we'd like to do.
- Dude: land ownership structures. If you aren't excited about that then you're not into social history.
The problem was that the historians discovered that wage/price data from 1300 was from monastery records. That there was no general market in a capitalist sense of labour power and commodities to reproduce actual living labour. That what was true in 1830 was not in 1300. Which means that a pound ain't a pound.
So let's get to the meat: knowing the data and theory are bad, we can price a pound of government expenditure in 1300 and 1930. This is limited by the fact that the pound works differently in both eras.
Measuring Worth https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ukcompare/result.php?year_source=1300&amount=1&year_result=1930 provides the following
£1 in 1300:
- £12/10- reflecting the retail prices paid by people who work buying the necessities of life (1:12.5 in beers)
- £12/6- reflecting the proportion of total capitalist output (1:12.1 in possible beers)
- £85/14- in average earnings (holy shit beers are WAY MORE EXPENSIVE in 1930)
- £92/14- in per-capita GDP (holy shit workers get WAY LESS OF THE ECONOMY in 1930)
- £712 using GDP (what GDP in 1300?)
So there you go. Between 1300 and 1930 you could buy fewer beers, beers were more expensive, and the government controlled way more of the economy.
This is inline with Marx and Engels writings btw.
If you're offended the reason why is because there's a much larger base load of productive things (steel mills, ships) which exist. This "capital" has an interest in its reproduction. The reduction in actual beers drank though has been a matter of concern given that people get shot over it.
To compare military expenditure you'd want to compare %GDP but this is the worst historical figure to compare given that the UK government in 1944 could enclose ANYTHING to defeat Gitlerism. Whereas to defeat its close fraternal relations in 1300 the government had to beg borrow and steal to merely land in France to die attempting to become the King of France and abandon England.