Money, merchants and the world

Trade routes crossing the globe ensure that not only money travels continents and empires but also goods, ideas and languages.

Merchants are central to this cultural exchange, ensuring that societies have regular interaction with one another. Private enterprise has also filled a void left by rulers and issuers when they fail to meet the economic needs of the people.

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	Halfpenny, 1649–1672
  • 1

    Copper coffee house token, London, 1649–1672  

    Private Enterprise...

    When the British government failed to supply sufficient small change between 1649 and 1672 it prompted thousands of shop and inn-keepers to issue private tokens to fill the gaps. It gives not only a fascinating insight into the workings of trade and business during this time but also city life in general.

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    Gold-weight, modern-day Ghana, early-19th century AD 

    African riches...

    The gold deposits of West Africa had for centuries provided a source of wealth to people there. The arrival of European traders in West Africa from the 1400s changed this trade dramatically.

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    Eight-daler copper plate money of King Karl X Gustav, Sweden, 1658 

    The world’s largest coins…

    The mining and trading by a country of a particular resource can lead to greater prominence in political and economic spheres. It can also lead to rather peculiar currency practices such as the famously large Swedish plate-money, whose impracticality, in part, instigated the use of paper money in the country.

  • 4

    Kilwa pot sherds, Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, about AD 1000 to 1500 

    Trade winds....

    Trade routes created by the monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean led to flourishing links between the East African coast and the Middle East and Asia. These links allow not only the movement of goods and money but also ideas, languages and religions.