Tag: Middle Ages

The stock market: from the ‘Ter Buerse’ inn to Wall Street

Last year the economic crisis hit us all. Stock markets, too, had a tough time. Both the American and the European markets felt the pain, and the Bel 20 index plummeted. The Fortis share, initially thought to be stable, went into free-fall. Nowadays, the stock market is a familiar concept, but where, when and how did share trading actually begin?

Sterling as a medieval commercial currency

In the history of the world, only a few coinages have developed into international commercial currencies. In order to be accepted outside the territory where it was issued, a coin had to satisfy a number of conditions relating to its weight, alloy and value, and had to be familiar to many. From the end of the 12th century, the English sterling penny amply fulfilled these conditions; throughout north-western Europe it enjoyed a reputation as a strong and reliable currency.

The Vierlander, a precursor of the Euro. A first step towards monetary unification

Since the invention of money, a lot of regions, cities, countries and people use their own means of payment. Consquently, the variety of currencies has always been enormous Today the euro, the currency of an evergrowing number of European countries, is the result of a long process of monetary unification. The vierlander (= four lands), the 15th century silver coin we are focussing on this month, is one of the early forerunners of monetary union.

The money changer’s bench

One may wonder why the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium placed a wooden table right in the centre of the main exhibition hall where the history of money is told. The answer is quite simple, the bench belonged to a money changer. The owner of the bench did not only change money, as his profession might suggest, he also acted as a banker. Money changers found their way to the cities of the Low Countries in the Late Middle Ages. If you only think about the enormous variety of coins in circulation, it becomes quite obvious money changers played an important role in the economic life of a medieval citizen.

A fleur-de-Lys in Brabant?

We take a closer look at a coin issued by Henry I, Duke of Brabant (1190-1235). The obverse depicts the head and shoulders of the Duke of Brabant bearing arms, with his helmet, double-edged sword and lion shield. The lion, a symbol of power displayed on the weapons of the dukes of Brabant from the reign of Henry I, also appears on the reverse. An unusual feature of this silver coin weighing 0.81 grams is the fleur-de-lys adorning the duke’s helmet.