This book, first published in 2000, presents a history of Western monetary systems and explains why bimetallism was preferred to a gold standard before 1800. Professor Redish argues that the technological ability to issue fiduciary monies, and a commitment mechanism to prevent opportunistic governments changing the ratio between the currency and a unit of gold, were (frequently overlooked) prerequisites for the emergence of the Classical gold standard. The simplicity of the gold standard, a monetary system where there is a fixed ratio between a weight of gold and a unit of currency, makes it an obvious focus for discussion of commodity money systems, and for contrasting with today's fiat money regimes.
• One of the only books of its kind dealing with this issue • Handsome illustrations • Equal interest for economists and economic historians
Acknowledgements; 1. From the Carolingian penny to the Classical gold standard; 2. The mechanics of commodity money; 3. Bimetallism before the nineteenth century; 4. The issue of small-denomination coins; 5. Token coinage and the gold standard in the United Kingdom; 6. Transition to the gold standard in France; 7. Bimetallism in the United States; 8. Conclusions; References; Index.