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FOLLOWING THE MONEY: HISTORY FROM BURIED TREASURE

4:00pm-4:30pm on Saturday 2 April

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 26th March. For events on or after 27th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

Faculty of English, G-R.06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

Buried treasure is evocative, but what does it actually tell us? In this talk, Dr Rory Naismith (Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic) looks at examples of early medieval buried treasure as windows onto how people used money and wealth.

There was precious little coined money around in the early Middle Ages (from the
fifth to eleventh centuries), and what little there was tended to be high in value and seemingly impractical for day-to-day use. Yet people still made and used gold and silver coins across this period, and used them for an extremely wide range of purposes. The question is why they chose to use – or were forced to use – coins in some situations and not others. To come up with an answer, it is necessary to combine the resources of texts with the material record; specifically, the growing body of coins and other gold and silver items uncovered from the soil.

Buried treasure provides insights into how people actually used coined money, be it in large hoards or individual finds that dot the countryside. Putting all this evidence together, money comes across as an important social as well as an economic phenomenon. Coins were superficially neutral: the whole point of them was that anyone would accept them for anything, and kings backed up their acceptability with tough legislation. But the fact they had to do so is suggestive, and hints at the deep inequalities and social dynamics that led up to or ensued from every monetised exchange.

Many people in England and its neighbours at this time faced not only the costs of a transaction, but a range of hidden costs associated just with not having enough of it. They might have to search long or travel far, whereas others could commission coins directly through the very localised, personalised system of minting fresh silver pennies. And that is to say nothing of the capacity of those with money and local power to shape prices and conditions of monetised exchange, or indeed demand that coin be used at all. Access to coined money depended on wealth and connections, and the buried treasure we find now was the focus of a whole world of tension, inequality and manipulation.

Booking/Registration is: REQUIRED

Additional Information

Age: All Ages
Format: Talk
Timing: In person
Cost: Free
Event Capacity: 45
Theme: Society, Discovery
Accessibility: Step-free access, Lift, Accessible toilet

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