ahrc-logo-forwebox brandDirhams for Slaves
Dirham hoards from Northern Europe, trade in Slavic slaves, and the emergence of Medieval Europe (800-1000)

Early Medieval Imitational Coinages. A conference at the Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm, November 5th-7th 2015

ar300 S0516 NmNd nfg96 3.10 303b ImUglyThe ability to issue coinage has frequently been considered to be one of the main attributes of early medieval states. Historians of countries such as Sweden, Poland or Bohemia – the list is by no means exhaustive – have looked to the first national coinages in order to establish at which point these political structures became ‘independent’, fully formed ‘states’. This perspective leaves little place for coins that did not bear any national insignia or royal names, but merely imitated, with varying degrees of accuracy, the coinages of more powerful neighbours. In the last half century, however, it has become apparent that issues of imitative coinage were widespread in the early Middle Ages (8th – 12th centuries). What is more, in some cases imitations dominated the early coinages of the emerging states, relegating ‘official’ issues to the status of an economically insignificant admixture.

The goal of the conference is to reverse the traditional monetary perspective through which early medieval history is viewed by placing the imitations centre stage. We will attempt to deal both with their bewildering diversity – Islamic, Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and German coins were being imitated not only in most of Northern Europe, from the British Isles to Volga Bulgaria, but also within their lands of origin – and with the apparent uniformity of their purpose – which was economic rather than political. By downgrading the imitations to the rank of anomalous ‘ugly’ coins, historians have neglected a crucial aspect of the early medieval economy. The conference will seek to correct the nationalist bias of the historiography of the early Middle Ages and thus contribute to its fuller understanding.

The conference is organised by Cecilia von Heijne, Marek Jankowiak and Luke Treadwell.