Cash, Credit and Crisis in Europe, 1300-1600

Miskimin, Harry A.
Date published: 
January 1989

In this volume, which opens with an extensive new introduction, Professor Miskimin focuses on the monetary history of England and France, but his analysis bears, too, on much broader issues. Specific topics include the link between fluctuations in mint output and the fortunes of France in the 100 Years War, or between monetary instability and royal power, and the relationship of coinage, the balance of payments, and real economic conditions (such as the price of grain). He holds that the early Renaissance was indeed a time of real economic depression, and that the bullion ‘famine’ of the 15th century in Northerwestern Europe had genuine and serious consequences for economic life: in the absence of credit, a shortage of cash was critical. These movements of money, he further argues, cannot simply be accounted for by the workings of Gresham’s Law, or the activities of international arbitrageurs, and, in the case of Northwestern Europe, there was a massive real drain on resources brought about by such causes as trade imbalance, payments for war materials and, not least, remittances to the papacy.