What is money?


What is money? A question borne from my ignorance of the subject. Money is not one subject but a whole series of subjects. Money is, amongst other things, about trust in the value of things, about exchanging in currencies, about measuring the capacity to own property.

Think of the kissi pennies. Or cowrie shells as earliest chinese currency in use between 16th-8th century BC. The largest ever bank transfer note in US currency was a $100,000 note in 1934 featuring Woodrow Wilson. The UK equivalent is a £100 million note called titan found only in the vaults of the Bank of England. The history and continuing importance of money is rather intriguing.

And the inflation of prices. The Codrington Library at Old Souls Oxford was built in 1756 on an endowment of £10,000 – £6000 specifically for the library – from Christopher Codrington a sugar magnate and Governor of the West Indies.

Also, imagine offering archaeological treasure to a foreign country to seek funds to modernise your own country. That is what happened with regards to the Obelisk in Central Park and Cleopatra’s Needle along the River Thames. In a way, that is what happens to many football clubs and stadium building projects. How is a piece of stone sitting in central park equated and measured in value? How does one era’s sensibilities regarding cultural capital and foreign political control be understood or translated in another era?

It is interesting to think about who has or does not have money, how does monetary value grow or fall, change hands and so forth. The story of money connects to the story of international power, international behaviour, international arrangements.

Here are some links to articles explaining ‘money’: