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Medieval symbol for money/trade/banking

Medieval symbol for money/trade/banking


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I take part in arranging a medieval fair. As part of that I have the task of creating a pair of moneyboxes for use at the counter of the main place where the visitors can buy something to eat and drink.

I have searched, but I have not been able to find any images or illustrations of how something like this might have looked. My guess is that it would more often have been a pouch of some sort, but that solution cannot work here for various reasons.

So I am just going to build a couple of boxes as best I can. I would like to carve some symbols into the boxes and ideally they should represent what they purpose of the box is. Thus I am looking for any symbol the might have been used in medieval times to represent money or trade or even banking.

Alternatively I could also use the symbol for hospitality which I have found some images of here: http://www.schlenkerla.de/biergeschichte/brauerstern/html/ausschankzeichene.html

Looking at Abb 28 on that page there is a fairly nice symbol for use.

Also I would very much like some information on why a suggested symbol was used and how it came about if possible, but on the other hand I am not a historian so a short summary will do. I have boxes to build, after all :)

Any input you may have will be greatly appreciated.


In modern times three gold balls were often used by pawnbrokers to identify their shops. An old book about heraldry claimed that the three gold balls of pawnbrokers are based on the medieval signs for bankers, which were based on the coat of arms of the medieval kingdom of Italy or Lombardy where important Lombard bankers came from.

That kingdom became merged into the Holy Roman Empire before heraldry was used, and thus probably never had an official coat of arms, though that didn't stop Italian noble familes from claiming descent from the kings of the Lombards and claiming that their coats of arms were based on the royal arms of Lombardy. For example, a Palli family used a coat of arms of Gules, three Bezants, and claimed to be descended from a nephew of Desiderious, last king of the Lombards.

In heraldry a solid gold or yellow circle or roundel is called a bezant, representing a golden Byzantine coin. A white or silver roundel is called a plate and might be based on a silver coin.

I hope this might help until someone with more medieval knowledge can help you.


Money in the Middle Ages

People of ancient times used to exchange products for trades and this system was known as the barter system. There are evidences of barter system since 9000 BC. However, as the trade and business began to increase, ancient people started using Cowrie and Cowry Shells as a means of exchange. Yet, barter system still was prevalent. The first metal coins were founded around 1000 BC and since then, people started acknowledging and enjoying the comforts of coins and currency.

While coins had gained a special place in the market, people still used the ancient method of barter system for simple exchanges. During the medieval period too, people used barter system for various chores while coins were also used as money in the Middle Ages.

Social Classes of Middle Ages and their Economic Conditions

During the medieval period of Europe, feudalism gained its roots as the major political, judicial and economic system. This political system offered immense powers in the hands of the members of nobility which included the kings, the barons, the lords, the vassals and the peasants or serfs at the bottom. In addition, there were religious leaders who were playing the important role of bringing unity among the masses of Europe through their religious movements. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, a number of vast kingdoms started to develop in Europe.

The kings believed that God granted them and their families, the right to rule over others. With the help of the clergy, they easily controlled other lords who were forced to take oath of fealty and loyalty towards the king to maintain their economic positions. Kings offered land to barons who were known as manors or fiefs. The barons or lords of these manors enjoyed full privileges over these lands and they taxed peasants and serfs who were using these lands. They also took rents from serfs to allow them to live in their manors.

However, these taxes and rents were not necessarily paid in form of coins or other currency. Serfs of peasants could pay the taxes or rents either by working in the manor for various chores and by managing the land or they could also pay the taxes and rents by joining the troops of barons. In addition, serfs could also pay their taxes and rents by offering clothes, food and other necessities for the soldiers in the troops of baron.

Similarly, barons were also required to pay homage and taxes for the king. Often they used to provide troops and soldiers for the king at the time of need. Seldom had they used to offer cash for the king. Thus, coins or money in the middle ages was not very important for the political exchanges.

Similarly, peasants preferred to pay their taxes and rents by offering a part of their agriculture products to the barons. These agricultural products were often used by barons either to fulfill the requirements of their troops or to support the troops of their immediate superior. Thus, while there were forms of money and coins during the medieval ages, people still used exchanges of goods for paying their taxes and rents.

Forms of Medieval Wealth

During the medieval times, the kings maintained their power and reign due to the ownership of land of their kingdoms. They used to collect taxes from lords, barons, the clergy and the peasants through the economic means of feudal system.

However, land was not the only form of precious wealth during the medieval period. There were local markets and these markets used to serve people weekly. People used to trade and barter various goods in these markets while some people also used money for buying the products of their need. Peasants, serfs and craftsmen used to sell their products to earn a living while the lords and kings earned taxes through these market trades.

Money was also used to take part in Church activities. With the increasing importance of Christianity as a mass religion, common men were almost forced to join the church of their villages or towns. The clergy used to ask money from people and people had to pay money to get rid of their sins.

Money in the Middle Ages

As explained above, there was a need for people to earn money so that they could pay the Church for their sins and money was also used occasionally to offer taxes and rents. Money was earned by those who used to live in city and villages alike. Farmers, ranchers, artisans, day laborers, retailers and all others used money to exchange their products and services. However, citizens in general were very poor and oppressed. On the other hand, the members of nobility, kings, lords, barons, vassals and yeomen still had privileges to have a leisure life style.

Money in the Middle Ages was used as currency in the form of metal coins. These coins came in varying qualities and weights. In addition, people also used the currency of promise (or fiat currency) which was often used in large-scale transactions. For general transactions, coins were predominantly used. Small silver coins or penny (also known as pfennig or denarius) were the most commonly used coins. Rich people of medieval period also used the pounds, schillings and pence. A schilling was used to be equal to 12 pence, while 20 schillings made a pound.

During the 13th century, large amount of bigger silver coins (pennies) were introduced which were known as groats. A groat was around four times bigger than a small ordinary penny. Until 1252, all coins were produced of silver. However, in the year 1252, gold coins were also introduced in Florence. These gold coins of Florence were called as florins. Soon after that, people restricted using silver coins and they adopted for copper coins. This period was termed for the debasement of currency from silver to copper. Money was regularly changing and so was the usage of money.


Middle Ages for Kids Banks

Increases in Trade: A trade fair was a group of traveling merchants who would move from town to town selling their goods. These started small but quickly grew in size and importance. Many new things were being brought in from other places by ship and caravan. Sometimes it was the merchant himself who brought the goods from far away. Later the merchants would buy their goods in one place and sell to other merchants who would travel about. Along with their wares, these merchants brought their own money.

Creation of Banks: These merchants needed someone who could exchange their money for the local money. This lead to the creation of moneychangers. This was the start of the banking system since these moneychangers charged for the exchange of currency.

Creation of Money: Barter or the exchange of one thing for another, was becoming less popular. Traders wanted something small and light that they could carry easily. A trader didn't want to trade his silk for bushels of wheat. So the Nobles started trading silver and gold for what they wanted. Nobles had to find a way to get the gold and silver to trade.

To get the gold and silver they wanted, the nobles had to sell their crops or tax their peasants. Since peasants usually paid in crops, the nobles had an excess of food. So they sold the food to get gold and silver to by the traders merchandise. Many times the nobles didn't get enough for their crops to pay the merchants for goods. The nobles would then go to a moneylender to get money and would pledge their lands as repayment.

The nobles were not used to the idea that they had to pay back anything that they had borrowed. They were used to just taking what they wanted. The banks were owned and operated, for the most part, by merchants and traders and the new class of moneylenders and they wanted their money back. They went to the King. The king also needing loans to run the kingdom had to keep them in business so the King ordered the nobles to pay back their loans.

The Kings saw this as a great way to get money. They could tax the nobles, the merchants and even the moneylenders.


Jewish History

In the Middle Ages, the Church, in a misapplication of the Biblical prohibition against charging interest, forbade interest in all instances. The Talmud, in contrast, created an economic system in which loans could be converted into investments, so interest could accrue from them, but under the Christian interpretation, no credit market was possible. The way the Church got around that was by forcing the Jews to become the bankers. Back then, though, they were called “money lenders,” which is a much more pejorative term. “Banker,” at least at one time, represented a term of honor.

Jewish money lending worked as follows. The Count or nobleman of the town would loan money to the Jew, and the Jew in turn would loan money to the non-Jewish peasants. The Jew became the middleman, which was a very dangerous position. The interest rates were usurious in those times – 30% or 40% – so the peasants had a hard time paying anything back. And if the Jew didn’t collect the money, the nobleman would kill him. Therefore, the Jew had to have a large spread in the middle in order to be able to cover his losses and still make a living.

In the 18th century, there was a Jew in Frankfurt Am Main by the name of Mayer Amshel Rothschild. Like many other Jews, he was a money lender, except that among his debtors was the Duke of Bavaria. Rothschild came up with a brilliant idea. He had five sons, so he sent each one to a different country. One went to London, one went to Paris, one went to Vienna, one went to Naples, and one stayed with him in Frankfurt. That created what we today call “international banking.” Until then, if you wanted to send money from Germany to England, how would you exchange the currency? Who in Germany trusted someone in London to do this? The same principle that the Sephardic Jews used in trade, they brought to the next level in a world whose economy had become far more complex.

Because of the trust between the brothers, the Rothschilds created an international banking system, and within a century, they were among the wealthiest families in the world, and they remained so until the Nazis confiscated everything they had. They have since rebuilt themselves, but never to what they once were, relatively speaking. But that became a new concept in the world: that you could have a banking company in Switzerland with offices in New York, London, and Paris, and everybody could do business that way, crossing international borders.

There is a legend told that on the day of the Battle of Waterloo, Nathan Mayer Rothschild came to the floor of the London Stock Exchange, leaned against a pillar, and started selling. It was well known that the Rothschilds had their own independent sources of information and intelligence, and nobody knew the results of the battle, so when he began to sell, everyone thought that England had lost, and they began selling, too.

That forced a panic in the market. As much as 15%-20% of the value of the stocks fell in about three hours. And after they had fallen so low, Rothschild turned around and began buying. It is said that he knew all along that the Duke of Wellington had defeated Napoleon and that the British market would go up. And when the official news came the next day that the British had won, the market went up 1000 points, making Rothschild even wealthier. It is reputed that on that coup alone, a substantial amount of the Rothschild fortune was made.

That legend has been used against the Jewish people because somehow it doesn’t seem fair. Nevertheless, that was how capitalism operated in those days. But great wealth has a very positive side – charity – and the Rothschilds excelled at it.


Modern Banking in the 17th to 19th Centuries

Perhaps the biggest changes to the world of banking came in the 17th to 19th centuries, particularly in London. In fact, the way in which banks work will be based completely around these banking concepts, i.e. issuing bank debt, allowing deposits to be made into banks etc.

The first ‘proper’ bank could be said to be the Goldsmiths of London. It is now a bank, but back then it was more a series of vaults which charged a fee for their services. People would deposit their precious materials into these vaults, and they would be able to collect them. Over time, Goldsmiths started to provide loans.

The first bank to offer banknotes was the Bank of England. Bank notes were, initially, promissory notes. You would deposit cash into the bank and be offered a note to say that it was there. Over time, the bank started to offer cheques, overdrafts, and traditional banking services. This was important when the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom was starting to get into ‘full swing’.


Medieval Merchant

Merchants have existed for as long as humans have engaged in trade and commerce.

In ancient Rome and Greece, merchants could become wealthy but lacked high social status, contrary to the Middle East, where markets were an integral part of the city. During the Middles Ages in Europe, a rapid expansion in trade and commerce led to the rise of a wealthy and powerful merchant class. The age of discovering opened new trading routes and giving European consumers access to a much broader range of goods.

History of Merchants

Merchants and merchant networks operated in open-air and public markets in the ancient world: Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia, and Rome. There, merchants and traders congregated, usually in the town’s center. Trading and exchanges involved direct selling through permanent or semi-permanent stall-holders and shop-keepers, or through door-to-door direct sales via merchants or peddlers.

In the Roman world, local merchants served the wealthier landowners’ needs, who could call them directly from their farm-gates. Both Greek and Roman merchants also engaged in long-distance trade, as evidenced by Roman objects found in China as early as 226 CE.

During the Middle Ages, England and Europe witnessed a rapid expansion in trade and the rise of a powerful and wealthy merchant class. By the 12th century, there was an upsurge in the number of market towns and larger centralized merchant circuits. While the Crusades helped open up new trade routes in the Near East, Marco Polo stimulated interest in the far East in the 12th and 13th centuries. Consequently, medieval merchants began to trade in exotic and luxury goods such as spices, wine, food, furs, silk, glass, and jewelry.

Miniature of merchants 1401-1500, Hôtel de ville de Rouen. Manuscrits de la bibliothèque municipale de Rouen. Ancien fonds et Suppléments. Venic merchants in the 16th century, “Officina della Moneda” (Coin office). Source: Wikimedia commons.

Merchant guilds began to form during the 12th century, controlling how trade was to be conducted and specifying rules governing the conditions of trade.

During the thirteenth century, European businesses became more permanent, allowing merchants and agents to become sedentary. Merchants specialized in financing while agents were domiciled overseas and acted on behalf of a principal. Over time these partnerships became more commonplace and led to the development of large trading companies.

From 1300 through to the 1800s, many European chartered and merchant companies were established to exploit international trading opportunities. These developments, sometimes known as the commercial revolution, triggered innovations such as double-entry bookkeeping, commercial accountancy, and international banking, including access to lines of credit, marine insurance, and commercial courier services.


A high-minded design𠅊nd an orderly rollout

On January 2, 2002, euro banknotes and coins began to circulate. Luc Luycx, a Belgian designer, won an international competition to design the common side of each coin. They feature maps of Europe, and each euro country contributes national sides that feature various figures and facets of their countries. The banknotes were designed by Robert Kalina of Austria and feature architectural features from different phases of European history. The gates, windows, bridges and archways on the notes don’t show actual buildings, but symbolize openness and cooperation. Starting in 2013, a refreshed series of banknotes has been sent into circulation. It features an updated map of Europe and better safety features.

The rollout was relatively smooth, despite the refusal of some countries, like the United Nations and Denmark, to use the currency and strikes by disgruntled bankers in both France and Italy. Meanwhile, reported CBS News, people exchanged hoards of money they had been hiding for years and bestowed piles of old money on churches as offerings to offload their old coins. The public had to be taught not just to recognize the new currency, but to determine whether the coins and banknotes were counterfeit and figure out what it was worth compared to their old currency.

𠇊s soon as I switched to the single currency, I converted all my money into euros and tried to think only in that currency,” said Germain Pirlot, the professor who suggested the currency’s name, in 2007. He called the conversion 𠇊 simple gymnastics of the mind” and encouraged his fellow Belgians to think in euros, not francs, abandoning the complicated math that went into understanding how much the currency might be worth.


Trade | The Renaissance

The areas of Europe to the west of the Adriatic Sea and the Elbe River were changing from the more subsistence- oriented economy of the early Middle Ages to a money economy, from an economy based in good measure on home-grown produce paid for in kind to one relying heavily on imports paid for in money or letters of credit.

By the fifteenth century the West had long been importing the spices of the East salt from the mines of Germany or the sea-salt pans of the Atlantic coast and the wines of the Rhine, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. The furs of eastern Europe, the wool of England and Spain, and the woolen cloth of Flanders and Italy commanded good markets. At the close of the Middle Ages supplies of palatable food and warm clothing were steadily increasing.

Trade slumped during the serious economic depression of the early 1300s and in the prolonged aftermath of many wet summers, the Black Death, and the Hundred Years’ War. Recovery came in the fifteenth century, and by the late 1400s the trade of the West could, for the first time, be compared in relative volume and variety with that of the Roman Empire, of Byzantium at its peak, and of Norman and Hohenstaufen Sicily. Meantime, Western merchants developed more elaborate commercial procedures and organizations.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the membership of the Hansa (the German word means “league”) included almost a hundred towns, among which Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, and Danzig were the leaders. Its policies were determined by meetings of representatives from the member towns, usually held at Lubeck. The weakness of the Holy Roman Empire and the fact that many of the Hanseatic towns began as autonomous frontier outposts enabled the Hansa to play a virtually independent political and military role, besides exercising great economic power.

The Hansa was not the first important confederation of commercial towns in Europe alliances of communes in Lombardy and in Flanders had blocked the ambitions of Hohenstaufen emperors and French kings, respectively. The Hansa, however, operated on a grander scale its ships carried Baltic fish, timber, grain, furs, metals, and amber to western European markets and brought back cloth, wine, and spices.

Hanseatic merchants, traveling overland with carts and pack trains, took their Baltic wares to Italy. The Hansa maintained large depots at Bruges, London, Venice, Novgorod, and Bergen on the Norwegian coast. These establishments resembled colonial outposts of a Hanseatic empire. The Hansa itself had its own legal code (the Law of Lubeck), its own diplomats, and its own flag.

After 1500, however, the fortunes of the Hansa declined rapidly. The shift of trade routes from the Baltic to the Atlantic ended the prosperity of many Hanseatic towns. The loosely organized Hansa was no match for the stronger monarchical governments growing up along the rim of its Baltic preserve. Internally, the Hansa was weakened by the mounting conservatism of its merchants and by rivalries among member towns and competing merchant families.

Only a minority of the member towns usually sent representatives to the deliberations in Eli 1 beck, and very few of them could be counted on for men and arms in an emergency. Moreover, Hanseatic trading activities were carried on in a relatively primitive fashion by a multitude of individual merchants who entered temporary partnerships for a single venture rather than establishing permanent firms.

The truly big business of the last medieval centuries was to be found in Augsburg, Nuremberg, and the cities of the Mediterranean: Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Milan, and a dozen others in Italy Marseilles, Montpellier, and Narbonne in France and Barcelona in Spain. Venice furnishes an excellent case study. It was the East-West trade that brought wealth to Venetian merchants: from the East, spices, silk, cotton, sugar, dyestuffs, and the alum needed to set colors from West, wool and cloth. The area of Venetian business was enormous, from England and Flanders to the heart of Asia, which the thirteenth-century Venetian Marco Polo (1254-1324) crossed to reach China.

The main carrier of Venetian trade was the galley. By 1300 the designers of the Venetian arsenal (originally a government-operated shipyard) had transformed the traditional long, narrow, oar-propelled galley of the Mediterranean into a swifter and roomier merchant vessel, relying mainly on sails and employing oarsmen chiefly to get in and out of port. In the fifteenth century these merchant galleys had space for 250 tons of cargo. Records from the early fifteenth century show about forty-five galleys sailing from Venice annually to Flanders, southern France, the Black Sea, Alexandria, Beirut, and Jaffa in the Holy Land. The Flanders fleet, which touched also at London and Southampton, provided a service between Italy and northwestern Europe that was cheaper and more secure than the overland route.

The state supervised the activities of these galleys. Since the average life of galleys was ten years, government experts periodically tested their seaworthiness, and the arsenal made needed replacements. The government provided for the defense of the galleys and their cargoes by requiring that at least twenty of the crew be bowmen. The captains of the Flanders galleys were directed to protect the health of the crew by enlisting a physician and a surgeon. The Venetian Republic also maintained an ambassador in England to smooth the way for its merchants.

Ship design changed slowly, but as more and more galleys ventured out into the Atlantic, the differences between northern European and Mediterranean designs began to disappear. The great medieval ship was the full- rigged three-master that could be adapted to carracks (ships that carried bulk cargoes), to caravels (ships that crossed the Atlantic), to galleons (ships that brought treasure back from the Americas to Spain), to merchantmen for the Baltic trade, and finally to the fluyt, a Dutch ship best used for grain, wine, and alum, which became the model for Europe’s commercial fleets.

With these changes went better instruments, improved charts, and clearer lines of authority for ships’ captains. Improved navigation tied the world of commerce closer together, sped cargoes that otherwise might spoil, created a community of instrument makers, and made possible the pursuit of cargoes around Africa. Sailing in tropical waters brought changes in ship design, new cargoes, knowledge of disease, and new forms of finance.

For example, shipworm, which rotted the bottoms of wooden ships, was far more active in the tropics ships sailing in those waters therefore had to be replaced far more often. This, together with the increase in sailing distances and the need to carry cargoes further and to sail at greater speeds, led to ever more complex commercial arrangements. Europeans hoisted sail before they saddled horse, and watercraft became the first tools in the European conquest of the world.


We Warned You Not to Buy Bank Stocks – And Here's Why

By Kerri Shannon , Associate Editor , Money Morning - October 27, 2011

If you weren't convinced before, hopefully you've seen the light now: Don't buy bank stocks.

Money Morning Global Investing Strategist Martin Hutchinson first warned it was time to bail on bank stocks on Aug. 17. He said the sector was headed for a "catastrophic decline."

"Margins are narrowing, government regulation is increasing, and the outlook for big deals is drying up," said Hutchinson. "In other words: The risks related to bank stocks are as present as they ever were - just the profitability is missing."

Hutchinson was right on with his call. Anyone who heeded his warning saved themselves from the losses U.S. banks have since sustained.

Share prices for many big U.S. banks tumbled in the period between the publication of Hutchinson's article and yesterday's (Wednesday's) market close. Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) lost 11.6%, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) fell 9.3%, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) 6.5%, and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) 2.2%.

The Standard & Poor's Financials Sector Index now is down more than 18% for the year. Global bank stocks have hit their lowest valuation in 40 years.

And this industry's stock losses are just the beginning of the price pain.

Poor Earnings Reflect Banks' Struggle

Hutchinson pointed to key factors that would weigh on bank profits, like trading losses, decreased lending, and the overhang of dead mortgages.

This season's dismal bank earnings have supported Hutchinson's forecast.


Did Banks Fail Industry?

In the US and Germany, industry used their banks heavily for long-term loans. Britons didn’t do this, and the system has been accused of failing industry as a result. However, America and Germany started at a higher level, and needed much more money than Britain where banks weren’t required for long-term loans, but instead for short-term ones to cover small shortfalls. British entrepreneurs were skeptical of banks and often preferred older methods of finance for start-up costs. Banks evolved along with British industry and were only a part of the funding, whereas America and Germany were diving into industrialization at a much more evolved level.


Watch the video: Το ελληνικό παράδοξο λύνεται πολύ εύκολα. Η Γαλλία θέλει να ξαναβρει το ρόλο της - Ιω. Μάζης 0410 (July 2022).


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