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The Impact of Money on an African Subsistence Economy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2011

Paul Bohannan
Northwestern University


It has often been claimed that money was to be found in much of the African continent before the impact of the European world and the extension of trade made coinage general. When we examine these claims, however, they tend to evaporate or to emerge as tricks of definition. It is an astounding fact that economists have, for decades, been assigning three or four qualities to money when they discuss it with reference to our own society or to those of the medieval and modern world, yet the moment they have gone to ancient history or to the societies and economies studied by anthropologists they have sought the “real” nature of money by allowing only one of these defining characteristics to dominate their definitions.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 1959

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