Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Money in the debt relationship: notes on the mediaeval conceptualisation of money in Accursius and Bartolus of Sassoferrato

Brollo Tommaso, University of Siena

It is generally thought that mediaeval thinkers regarded money as a commodity, a lump of metal valuable only according to its intrinsic value. This paper contends this view by discussing the conceptualisation of the nature and role of money as it emerges from the juridical literature considering the forms of settlement of a monetary loan. Considering the paying power of money, then, it appears that the mediaeval authors conceived money as first and foremost a unit to express debts and prices, and this money of account was considered as firmly distinct from the various means of payment that could be used to discharge a debtor of his due. In this context, a nominal monetary mutation – that is, a change in the value of a coin in terms of money of account – was considered to have no effect whatsoever on the paying power of that coin in the debt contract, that remained anchored to the nominal expression, not to the intrinsic metal content per unit of value.

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Keywords: Monetary theory; Money of account; Roman Law; Mediaeval economic thought; paying power of money

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