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Power politics and princely debts: why Germany’s common currency failed, 1549-1556

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  • Volckart, Oliver

Abstract

The article argues that in the first half of the sixteenth century the need to avoid rounds of competitive debasements was the primary motive for the creation of a common currency valid in the whole Holy Roman Empire. In the years 1549 to 1551, the estates came close to achieving this. In contrast to what is suggested in the literature, their attempt did not fail because the Empire was economically poorly integrated or the will to co-operate was lacking. Rather, it failed because during the talks, the estates lost sight of the original motive, the princes favouring a bimetallic system that they hoped would allow them deflating the real value of their debts, and Charles V undervaluing the taler in the hope that this would weaken political opponents. These decisions antagonised important actors; when it proved impossible to enforce them, the Empire’s common currency failed.

Suggested Citation

  • Volckart, Oliver, 2015. "Power politics and princely debts: why Germany’s common currency failed, 1549-1556," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64496, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:64496
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64496/
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Chilosi, David & Volckart, Oliver, 2011. "Money, States, and Empire: Financial Integration and Institutional Change in Central Europe, 1400–1520," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(03), pages 762-791, September.
    2. Flandreau, Marc R, 2002. ""Water Seeks a Level": Modeling Bimetallic Exchange Rates and the Bimetallic Band," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(2), pages 491-519, May.
    3. Boerner, Lars & Volckart, Oliver, 2011. "The utility of a common coinage: Currency unions and the integration of money markets in late Medieval Central Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 53-65, January.
    4. Nikolaus Wolf & Albrecht O. Ritschl, 2011. "Endogeneity of Currency Areas and Trade Blocs: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 291-312, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Volckart, Oliver, 2017. "Premodern debasement: a messy affair," Economic History Working Papers 86533, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    2. Volckart, Oliver, 2018. "The dear old holy Roman realm. How does it hold together? Monetary policies, cross-cutting cleavages and political cohesion in the age of reformation," Economic History Working Papers 90503, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    monetary history; currency union; early modern Germany;

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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