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The Social Life of Money in the English Past


  • Page extent: 326 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.44 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521617802 | ISBN-10: 0521617804)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published May 2006

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$29.99 (P)

In an age when authoritative definitions of currency were in flux and small change was scarce, money enjoyed a rich and complex social life. Deborah Valenze shows how money became involved in relations between people in ways that moved beyond what we understand as its purely economic functions. This highly original investigation covers the formative period of commercial and financial development in England between 1630 and 1800. In a series of interwoven essays, Valenze examines religious prohibitions related to avarice, early theories of political economy and exchange practices of the Atlantic economy. In applying monetary measurements to women, servants, colonial migrants, and local vagrants, this era was distinctive in its willingness to blur boundaries between people and things. Lucid and highly readable, the book revises the way we see the advance of commercial society at the threshold of modern capitalism.
Deborah Valenze is Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York City. She is the author of The First Industrial Woman, Prophetic Sons and Daughters: Female Preaching and Popular Religion in Industrial England, and numerous scholarly articles.


List of illustrations; Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Introduction: the social life of money, c.1640–1770; Part I. The Relationship Between Money and Persons: 1. Coins of the realm: the development of a demotic sense of money; 2. The phantasm of money: the animation of exchange media in England, c.1600–1770; Part II. Mutable Meanings of Money, ca.1640–1730: 3. Circulating mammon: attributes of money in early modern English culture; 4. Refuge from money's mischief: John Bellers and the Clerkenwell Workhouse; 5. Quarrels over money: The determination of an acquisitive self in the early eighteenth century; Part III. Regulating People Through Money: 6. The measure of money: equivalents of personal value in English law; 7. The price of people: rethinking money and power in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; 8. Money makes masteries: the triumph of the monetary self in the long eighteenth century.


"Deborah Valenze's extraordinarily original The Social Life of Money in the English Past removes the history of money from the economists and inserts it into the lives of people who cannot quite understand it but find they have to live by it. The issues it raises go well beyond 18th-century Britain."
-Eric Hobsbawm, The Manchester Guardian

"Valenze's rich book illuminates a number of important, and oft-overlooked, social practices associated with money during a pivotal period of English history."
-Scott Breuninger, Canadian Journal of History

"Not the least of the contributions of Deborah Valenze's book, The Social Life of Money in the English Past, is that, in the process of defining its own subject, it surveys and intellectually criticizes a wide spectrum of this new work and links it to an equally wide range of relevant provides a rich array of new perspectives on a topic usually examined through the narrow lens of economics."
-Woodruff D. Smith, University of Massachusetts, Business History Review

"...Her argument has particular resonance for historians working on early modern Britain, but those working in other fields will find this book useful both for the interpretive questions it raises and for the eclectic and sophisticated theoretical foundations on which it is based."
--John Smail, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Journal of Modern History

"...Valenze's book sheds important light on the process by which a modern sense of money and its function came to predominate. The details of this shift are not well known and the author's work placing it at the crossroads of economic, social, and cultural history is truly valuable." -Dana Rabin, H-Albion

"This wonderful book is filled with far too many fascinating ideas and examples to be covered here. It will be of interest to a wide range of readers, particularly in its demonstration of the transforming power of money and its ability to redefine social relationships and to remake the identity of users." -John Patrick Montano, The Historian

"Valenze's...will be the most useful to readers unfamililar with the history of finance because her historical range is wide and her primary resources quite varied." -Alexander Dick, Eigteenth-Century Life

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