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Money and the Middle Ages


Jacques Le Goff sets out in this book to explain the role of money, or rather of the various types of money, in the economy, life and mentalities of the Middle Ages. He seeks also to explain how, in a society dominated by religion, the Church viewed money, and how it taught Christians what attitudes they should adopt towards it and towards the uses to which it could be put. He shows that, although money played an important role in the rise of towns and trade and in state formation, there was no capitalism but only a pre-capitalism in the Middle Ages, even by their end, in the absence of a truly global market. This is why economic development remained slow and limited, in spite of some remarkable success stories. It was a period in which it was as important to give money as it was to earn it. True wealth was not yet the wealth of this world, even though money played an increasingly large role in reality and in mentalities.

No similar discussion of this subject, aimed at a wide readership, has previously been published. Written by one of the greatest medievalists, this book will be recognized as a standard work on the topic.

Jacques Le Goff is Professor of History, and formerly head of École des hautes études en sciences sociales. He was a leading figure in the Annales School and his book Medieval Civilization is a classic.



1. The heritage of the Roman Empire and Christianization

2. From Charlemagne to feudalism

3. The rise of coin and money at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries

4. The wonderful thirteenth century of money

5. Trade, money and coin in the commercial revolution of the thirteenth century

6. Money and the nascent states

7. Lending, debt and usury

8. A new wealth and a new poverty

9. From the thirteenth to the fourteenth century: money in crisis

10. The perfecting of the financial system at the end of the Middle Ages

11. Towns, states and money at the end of the Middle Ages

12. Prices, wages and coin in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

Appendix: Was there a land market in the Middle Ages?

13. The mendicant orders and money

14. Humanism, patronage and money

15. Capitalism or caritas?