The Social Acceptance of Paper Credit as Currency in Eighteenth-Century England: A Case Study of Glastonbury c. 1720–1742

  • Craig Muldrew
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance book series (PSHF)


The period from roughly 1700 until the rise of county banking saw one of the most acute long-term shortages of small change in the whole of the history of early modern England. The recoinage in 1774 produced only about £800,000 in silver against £18.2 million in gold. But, this was a period of increasing production and consumption, and it is a puzzle how the British economy managed to achieve such continued growth without currency to pay wages and make small transactions, while at the same time relying less on informal credit. However, changes were happening in credit networks below the radar of the very well established history of the financial revolution. Informal written bills and notes were taking the place of unwritten obligations. Although bills for goods sold or work done commonly appear as debts in inventories in the early seventeenth century, it is difficult to know when they became commonly transferable. Certainly transferred bills had no separate legal status in the common law. Fortunately, now, with the publication of the Chronicles of John Cannon, a poor Somerset husbandman’s son who became scrivener for the less wealthy of the small town of Glastonbury, we have an excellent source to trace the transformation of a very rural credit market far away from the stocks and shares of metropolitan finance.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig Muldrew
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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