In his book "Debt: The first 5000 Years" David Graeber writes that during most of the middle ages and antiquity coins were seldom used in day-to-day dealings, at least of the more rural population. He mentions tally sticks as alterantive, and systems where twice a year at harvest etc. debts were paid. He claims (and backs this up some) that bartering material goods was not in widespread use in cash-less societies

Where can I find Accounts of cashless payment systems, or score keeping systems?

The scope is deliberatly broad because I'm mostly interested in the possible ways this could be done (with a mostly illiterate people).

  • I read somewhere that Knights Templar made first money transfer system, so you paid in France and get your money in Jerusalem (but this is probably not what you're asking for). If you are interested, I can try to formulate an answer.
    – Voitcus
    Jul 24, 2013 at 9:37
  • no, I'm looking more for everyday stuff - paying for beer and shoes and he like.
    – mart
    Jul 24, 2013 at 9:46
  • Does he give any references in the book? Jul 24, 2013 at 10:14
  • @Voitcus - that Knights Templar made first money transfer system": Incorrect. Already from Talmudic times (circa 400 AD), if not long before, it is clear that the Jews had such a system, whose laws are well defined in many places in the Talmud.
    – user2590
    Jul 24, 2013 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


Monestary account records and feudal charter dues including land deeds. You might want to start with Bloch on feudalism or the encyclopaedia article on English economics in the Middle Ages.

Also that previous answer of mine on urbanity in medieval periods and the lack of a market economy. How did cities operate in medieval times?

  • 3
    I would strongly suggest you consult Mr. Russell's referenced answer; it is an excellent reference. The economic transactions you're seeking probably don't exist. There were villages that possessed only one coin, and used it to settle all debts. For 1 day a year the velocity of money would accellerate; for 364 days a year, no money would change hands.
    – MCW
    Jul 24, 2013 at 13:38
  • 2
    @Mark Ha, you've reminded me of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and how the narrator and King Arthur (who is in disguise) visit a peasant village and try to spend an unheard-of fortune in the form of a one-pound coin :) Jul 24, 2013 at 15:10

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