Monetary Explanations

  • R. B. Outhwaite
Part of the Studies in Economic History book series


THE most important influence for many years on modern English writing about the Tudor and early Stuart inflation was the great Victorian scholar, J. E. Thorold Rogers, who spent his life collecting and processing price materials stretching from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.1 On the whole Rogers had little new to say about the causes of the price rise — it was due first of all to debasement and then subsequently to Spanish-American bullion — but the weight of those seven volumes was sufficient to propel this already current orthodoxy well into the twentieth century.2 All the most important writings on English economic history duly leaned this way, though there was a gradually growing volume of minor criticisms and amendments. Cunningham and Lipson to cite two of the most influential did little more than fill out this dual-cause monetary explanation. From the late 1920s a new figure entered the ranks, the American historian, Earl J Hamilton, who began to produce his work on Spanish price history, work which related intimately the rise in Spanish prices to the influx into Spain of New World treasure.3 His importance lay not in suggesting such a connection, but in his methods, which owed much to earlier writers such as Wiebe and to the American economist, Irving Fisher.


Precious Metal Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Trade Balance Economic History 
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  1. 2.
    I. Fisher, The Purchasing Power of Money (New York, 1911 ).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    C. Oman, The Coinage of England (Oxford, 1931 );Google Scholar
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    The Committee met for the first time in 1930. See Sir W. Beveridge, Prices and Wages in England (London, 1930 ), p. 1.Google Scholar
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    The sections which follow owe a great deal to I. Hammarström, ‘The “Price Revolution” of the Sixteenth Century: Some Swedish Evidence,’ Scandinavian Economic History Review V (1957), 118–54, an article which is much more wide-ranging than its title implies and constitutes the best modern discussion of the ‘price revolution’ and the problems associated with it.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The clearest accounts of the great debasement are those in the works of Oman and Feaveryear cited above. They should be read in conjunction with the recent careful corrective of C. E. Challis, ‘The Debasement of the Coinage, 1542–1551’, Econ. Hist. Rev., 2nd series, XX, no. 3 (1967), 441–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Especially M. J. Elsas (Umriss einer Geschichte der Preise and Löhne in Deutschland vom ausgehenden Mittelalter bis zum Beginn des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Leiden, 1936–49), who early revealed to English audiences some of his important findings in ‘Price Data from Munich, 1500–1700’, Economic History, III (1935), 63–78.Google Scholar
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    This and the following section owes a great deal to the editorial comment, and selections from authorities, in E. Dean (ed.), The Controversy over the Quantity Theory of Money (Boston, 1965 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. B. Outhwaite
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeicesterUK

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