'That soft, pernicious tenderness that restrains the hand of justice': Popular and elite attitudes to currency crime in the English monetary revolution.

When:23 May 2017, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Morven Brown 309 (map ref C20)
Who:Associate Professor David Blaazer (UNSW Canberra)
David Blaazer

History Seminar Series


In the mid-1690s England arrived at the terminal crisis of the long, slow dissolution of its ancient monetary order. The crisis was only resolved by revolutionary institutional innovations, including the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694 and the great silver recoinage of 1696. For contemporaries, the most alarming aspect of the chaos attendant on this revolution was a sharp increase in the instance of currency crime. Indeed, many writers and politicians saw coin clipping and counterfeiting as the principle, if not the sole cause of England’s monetary problems, which therefore needed to be attacked with every available ideological and judicial weapon.

In this paper, I analyse elements of the ideological offensive against currency crime in order to tease out key points of conventional seventeenth century beliefs about money, before examining the practical operation of the criminal justice system in the detection, trial and punishment of coining and clipping in London. Comparison of the two will underpin some conclusions about how popular and elite attitudes to currency crime – and by implication to currency itself – may have differed during England’s monetary revolution.

About David Blaazer

David Blaazer is Associate Professor in History at UNSW Canberra. He researches and writes about British politics and history. He is the author of The Popular Front and the Progressive Tradition: socialists, liberals and the quest for unity, 1884-1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

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