Coins of the Realm: Money, Value, and Sovereignty in the Early Modern Atlantic

Friday, May 5, 2017
10:00 am – 4:45 pm

6275 Bunche Hall, UCLA
315 Portola Plaza

—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.

The five-guinea piece bears the date 1703 and four shields with the arms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France on one side. On the other side is the bust of Queen Anne. Only twenty were made from 7.5 lbs of gold seized from Spanish treasure ships by the British in Vigo Bay, northern Spain, in 1702.

Friday, May 5, 2017

9:30 a.m.
Morning Coffee and Registration

10:00 a.m.
Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles

Opening Remarks
Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles

10:30 a.m.

Session 1: Kingship, Coinage, and Sovereign Signs
Moderator, Winter Schneider, Ph.D. candidate, University of California, Los Angeles

Barrie Cook, British Museum
“British Coin Design from the Glorious Revolution to the Hanoverian Succession”

11:00 a.m.
Jotham Parsons, Duquesne University
“Monarchs, Machines, Mints, Medals, and Money in the Sixteenth Century”

11:30 a.m.
Mark G. Hanna, University of California, San Diego
“Pirate Numismatics: The Colonial Currency Crisis and the Great Recoinage”

12:00 p.m.

12:45 p.m.

2:15 p.m.

Session 2: Epistemologies of Coinage, Circulation, and Exchange
Moderator, Carla Gardina Pestana, University of California, Los Angeles

Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland, Galway
“Locke, Money, and America: Currency and International Exchange”

2:45 p.m.
Mara Caden, Ph.D. candidate, Yale University
“Intrinsic Value and the Failure of Overseas Mints in the British Atlantic”

3:15 p.m.
Coffee Break

3:30 p.m.
Elvira Vilches, Duke University
“Money Forms and Monetary Spaces in Early Modern Spain”

4:00 p.m.

4:45 p.m.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

9:30 a.m.
Morning Coffee and Registration

10:00 a.m.

Session 3: Complementary Perspectives
Moderator, Susan Rosenfeld, Ph.D. candidate, University of California, Los Angeles

Alex Borucki, University of California, Irvine
“The Trans-imperial Worlds of the Slave Trade and the Circuits of Silver in Eighteenth-Century Spanish South America”

10:30 a.m.
Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles
“False Gods and False Gold, or, Why Is Crawcraw a Fetish?”

11:00 a.m.
Coffee Break

11:15 a.m.
Chi-ming Yang, University of Pennsylvania
“Silver Travels and the Numismatics of Empire, ‘from China to Peru’”

11:45 p.m.
Concluding Discussion

12:30 p.m.
Program Ends

Registration Form

Bookings are currently closed for this event.