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Coins of the Realm: Money, Value, and Sovereignty in the Early Modern Atlantic
—a conference organized by Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles
The conference addresses key relationships between money-forms and political authority during major transitions in the British Atlantic economy associated with the Stuart Restoration, the financial revolution, the Board of Trade and Plantations, and the Royal African Company. Of central importance is the Great Recoinage of 1696, which attempted to restore England’s national currency by realigning the nominal values of coins with their material worth as gold and silver.
While much has been written on the fiscal side of this misguided monetary policy, this conference approaches it as an epistemological crisis precipitated by the disassociation of fluctuating exchange-values of bullion from the imprinted sign-values of the coins themselves, as designated by the sovereign’s mark. Responding to the material effects of clipping, debasement and counterfeiting coins by restoring the currency to its “true” metallic value, the Great Recoinage attempted to stabilize the state’s control over labile markets in the colonies, and the multiple forms of currency, barter and contraband in which international trade was transacted. Equating signs of sovereignty with substances of value in the metropole, coins of the realm were destabilized in the periphery, where risky conversions and transmutations of value challenged the symbolic foundations of British monarchy. Papers will draw on cases from England, the West Indies, colonial North America, and West Africa to highlight emergent connections between monetary value and political sovereignty in the early modern Atlantic.
Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles
Alex Borucki, University of California,
Irvine Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland, Galway
Barrie Cook, The British Museum
Mark G. Hanna, University of California, San Diego
Catherine A. J. Molineux, Vanderbilt University
Elvira Vilches, Duke University
Carl Wennerlind, Barnard College, Columbia University
Chi-ming Yang, University of Pennsylvania
Details & Bookings: www.1718.ucla.edu/events/coins