The Currency of Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England

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Abstract

England between the early 970s and 1066 had a remarkable monetary system, consisting of silver pennies of standardised type which were reminted frequently. Each penny carried the name of the individual responsible for its manufacture, and identified where he was based. This formidable currency came about thanks to unique conditions in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. An initial reform by Edgar was followed by a rapid sequence of recoinages under his son Æthelred II, which constituted one means of asserting morally responsible governance in the face of perceived divine displeasure. It follows that the chronology and motivation behind the coinage need to be seen as products of central, courtly developments. Actual minting, however, was a matter of individual moneyers dealing with individual customers. Here, it is argued that moneyers and mint-places need to be seen as part of the wider landscape of formal and informal social power, and that production of coin generally came about through networks of lordship and authority. Integration of the moneyers (typically drawn from the lower elite) across England into centrally controlled mechanisms such as the coinage was one of the underpinning strengths of the late Anglo-Saxon kingdom, linking different forms of power and giving a large swathe of the political community a stake in the realm’s institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12579
JournalHistory Compass
Volume17
Issue number7
Early online date29 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

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