Monday, August 7, 2023

Easy Money: American Puritans and the Invention of Modern Currency (Dror Goldberg)

Paper currency has existed in various forms since the 7th Century, having first been developed in China. Within European realms, the first paper banknotes were developed by the Swedes in the middle of the 17th Century as a means of payment. The system lasted three years before the central bank that backed the notes went bankrupt. However, the concept that currency could be backed by the faith of the government eventually was tried again.

Dror Goldberg’s Easy Money: American Puritans and the Invention of Modern Currency traces the development of currency in Massachusetts in 1690 to help finance a frontier war the colonists were fighting against the French. In this book, Goldberg explains the mix of circumstances that allowed this experiment to take place, including political instability in England, a lack of coin-based money in Massachusetts, and the economic heft that the colony had within New England and the rest of the developing American East coast.

Goldberg does a wonderful job explaining the evolution of money and the early stages of modern economic thinking in the 17th century and how Massachusetts' actions helped keep the peace domestically but also helped shape how money was thought about and used in the centuries to come.