Proposal preview

From mining to currency and money markets in the early modern Atlantic: Digital approaches and new perspectives

Early modern Atlantic trade marked a key stage in the globalisation process. Precious metals –gold and silver- played a vital role: trading as commodities in the form of bullion or fuelling merchant networks as specie. Due to its relative abundance, silver was the most heavily traded metal across the early modern Atlantic.
Our session plans to feature recent approaches that track the transformation and trajectory of silver from its origins in ores located on either sides of the Atlantic, up to when it reaches financial centres in continental Europe, where it is traded as currency.
Digital resources play an important role in some of the contributions, particularly in the paper by Werner Stangl, who combines the use of primary sources with the implementation of digital cartography to map mining centres in early modern Mexico. Digital methods help assess the accuracy of primary sources, as well as offering a visual representation of the location and magnitude of the mining areas in question.
The paper by Claudia Jefferies explores the relationship between exchange rates and levels of market volatility using multivariate econometric time series. It sets out to unveil the relationship between market volatility, perceived risk and the strategies put into practice to promote currency stability in 16th and 17th century Mexico.
The measure of the purchasing power of money requires the best possible estimation of the price level. Andrés Calderón’s paper revises the different methods that other authors have used to calculate the price level for 18th- Century Mexico. Through a thorough analysis of the items that compose different baskets, he has selected a new set of basket commodities and has constructed series of prices according to a more representative basket. His research is based on the analysis of primary sources located in Mexican archives.
Furthermore, focus will be placed on silver coins serving as the preferred means of transaction by Atlantic traders. In her paper, Renate Pieper highlights the importance of expectations as a determining factor of the exchange rate. Merchant networks are the centrepiece of her approach, which combines the use of economic time series and a wide range of data from archival primary sources.
The behaviour of money markets in early modern European financial centres is featured at different levels in Markus Denzel’s paper, which is a comparative study of different types of silver currencies trading short and long distance in different European locations. Money transfers at fairs, and in particular monies of account are a central feature of his paper. He displays practices and strategies used by currency traders that are the core of the overall mechanics underpinning early modern financial markets. This paper sheds light on the various behavioural elements governing currency trends and fluctuations in the early modern period.
To conclude, Michael Märcher’s paper narrows the gaps between mining, minting and money. Focusing on connections between Danish-Norwegian silver mining and coin production, he analyses its purposes in monetary politics, including the strategy of selling surplus Norwegian bullion on the Hamburg market to back currency exchange rates. His conclusions are based on the analysis of extensive archival documentation, including correspondence between mint masters.


  • Claudia d L Jefferies, City University London,,
  • Renate Pieper, Graz University,,
  • Markus A Denzel, Leipzig University,,

Session members

  • Michael Märcher, National Museum of Denmark,
  • Andrés Calderón, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico,
  • Werner Stangl, Graz University,

Proposed discussant(s)

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