During medieval times, money was a very important part of society. Commerce in the early part of the middle ages was split into many forms; these forms were dictated by the people who participated in them.
First, there was an exchange of goods or services between people called the barter system. This is a common form of an economic system, if you needed someone else’s services or goods; you obtained it with an exchange of yours. The concept of exchanging goods was probably the first form of an economy in the world. Many people in rural areas or small villages in the middle ages participated in this good exchange system.
The barter system cannot be applied to all people, so money was invented. Money can be in many forms of currency; the most popular in olden times were coins made of valuable materials such as gold and silver because these metals had value in themselves. The collection of coins and money soon developed into wealth. The more money someone had, the more power they had in society.
Merchants became important during the middle ages. Their ability to obtain and then sell goods from different areas helped them gain more money than those who were farmers or simple trade’s people.
With their wealth, merchants could have a greater influence on the political decisions of their times. Merchants used their influence to help countries develop trade routes and currency exchanges among countries. The increase in trade routes and currency exchanges in return enlarged the merchant’s wealth and then their influence.
Royalty, religion and money all were interconnected during the middle ages. The royalty believed they ruled by the will of God, that God granted them this right to rule over others. The Royals needed the church to propagate this concept of divine providence, while the church needed the protection of the Royals military. The Royals needed the church, and the church needed the royalty; each had an influence over the other, and feared the other at the same time.
A king or queen could not maintain a kingdom on their own. They developed a bureaucracy where barons (or lords), would maintain a smaller section of the kingdom, and others below them. To maintain this bureaucracy, taxes needed to be gathered from its citizens.
Tax revenues were paid to the barons by serfs and others who lived or worked within the baron’s territories. This money was then passed upward to the king or queen. Each person in the chain would then take their share of the revenue from the taxes.
The barons were not always required to pay taxes to the king, sometimes they needed to maintain an army and send them to serve the king or queen upon their request.
Those without money would pay their taxes with goods or services instead of money. If the goods paid were agricultural products, the barons would use these to feed his troops, and thus meet his requirement to maintain an army for the use of his king or queen.
The church received money from you from birth to the grave, if your children were to be baptized, you paid for that service. To be married the ceremony must be officiated by the church. According to the church if you were to go to heaven you must be buried in consecrated land, (a cemetery maintained by the church) this also would cost you money (actually your families’ money to bury you).
The church also needed money to maintain its influence over the royalty. Church property was exempt from taxes; this was very beneficial to the church, for the less the church became dependent on the Royals, the more influential it could become over them.
The church dominated everyone’s lives during the middle ages. The church made sure that everyone paid a tithe or 10% of their income to the church. If a farmer had no money, then he had an option to work the church land for free in lieu of the financial tithe.
The church figured out numerous ways to obtain money. It finally reached its highest level when the church began collecting indulgences. Indulgences were money you paid to forgive your sins, or sins of someone else, such as a relative who died.
As I stated earlier, much of the money used were in the form of coins. In Europe, there were many different countries and kingdoms, each minting their own coin. Inns and taverns that welcomed travelers from abroad needed a way to determine if the coins used by these travelers were authentic.
In my upcoming novel, a group of knights enter an inn. A bouncer greeted them at the door. The origin of the term bouncer is contested by many.
One story is that it is an American term, popularized by the Horatio Alger Novels of the 1870’s -90’s. The simple definition is it is someone who “bounces” you out of the bar or tavern.
The origin of the name I use in my novel refers to the gold or silver coin. Bouncers were responsible to ensure that people who enter the tavern or inn had money to pay for the food or a room. Since there a large amount of counterfeit coins made, the bouncer would bounce the coin off a wet block of wood, if it bounced correctly, the coin was good.
I am unaware which story is true; I liked the second version, so I went with that. Sometimes history deals more with perception then it does with accuracy.
Money helped move Europe out of the dark and middle ages. The need to gather more wealth pushed trade, and with the trade came more ideas and concepts from other parts of the world. The greed for wealth helped the renaissance to appear.
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