The following paper discloses the reasons why Italian cities turned to minting gold. The author of this paper has analyzed several sources on the topic and found out the main reasons why cities started developing their own currencies. To have a better idea on how to write a history research paper, look at the paper structure, style, and how the author presents the information. You can apply the same approach to your own research paper. To find out more on historical themes, read the related samples: Anglo-saxon essay and history essay about Prussia. If this sample will inspire you to bury yourself in the library and start writing, don’t waste your time!
Why Did Italian Cities Turn to Minting Gold in the Thirteenth Century
The history of gold coinage in Italy has deep roots starting from the Roman Empire and continuing till the eighth century. The Carolingian reform put an end to mint of gold not only in Italy but the whole Europe for around four hundred years. Silver denarius which was thin and had little weight became the main currency. In the middle of the thirteenth century, many Italian city-states had begun minting gold coins due to the enormous quantity of resource received from trading operations (“Return to Gold”). New currencies were designed for better organization of international and inner transactions. Mint of gold symbolized the effort of each republic to claim their independence from the Empire. They also indicated power and wealth.
The beginning of minting gold coins in Italy in the thirteenth century is connected with the sufficient income of gold. People started the migration from rural areas, thus, causing urbanization increase by 20% as the Renaissance era promised significant opportunities for everyone. Many city-states emerged due to the defeat of feudalism system and fast development of the commerce. They had own political policies, laws, and traditions (“Italy During the Renaissance”). Italy is the country with access to the sea; thus, many cities like Florence, Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Naples, Palermo, and cities of Sicily could support their economy with trading. Those cities-ports had become the connector of Europe with other continents, and local merchants could benefit from that and, as a result, enrich their cities. North Africa was the major supplier of gold to Europe. But when Muslims has conquered it at the end of the eighth century there was no gold coming to Europe anymore, and this has caused Dark Ages. When the period of Renaissance started many Italian cities renewed trading with Muslims traders who dug gold in Timbuktu, Africa’s Gold Coast.
However, the quantity of gold was limited and was in possession of Italian city-states, giving them more advantages than to other European cities. The gold, found in mines of Hungary at the beginning of the fourteenth century made the balance of economy among European civilizations more stable (Johnston, p.300). Nevertheless, Florence managed to mint gold coins which were adopted by the whole world for a couple of centuries. The currency, called florin, became international and was used by other city-states for the accomplishment of money transactions and establishment of the course of currency exchange.
One of the reasons Italian cities developed own currencies was the fact that they wanted to claim their independence from the Empire. The design of each coin of every city-state is the proof of that. However, some states like, for instance, Venice did not allow minting gold coins depicting public figures, politicians, merchants, or people who did something significant for their city as the principle of Venetians was that Republic belonged to all citizens and not to separate individuals.
Moreover, people of the Medieval Era were extremely religious and believed in higher powers. Therefore, in 1284, Republic of Venice started to produce own currency called Ducat. The coin Ducatus on the obverse depicted St Mark holding the gospel and giving gonfalon to the kneeling doge as the symbol that the ruler of Venice received the approval of God. On the reverse is depicted Christ in elliptical frame and surrounded by stars. The righting on edge reads the following: “Sit tibi, Christe, datus, quem tu regis iste ducatus,” which can be translated as “O Christ, let this duchy, which you rule, be dedicated to you” (“Medieval Currencies,” p.11).
The weight of the coin was 3,50 grams and 21 millimeters in diameter. This is the exact size of the florin, the currency of Florence which was minted earlier in 1252. The obverse of the coin is illustrated with the lily, the symbol of the city of Florence. On the reverse is depicted St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city. The coin was not only the achievement of the economy but also the art (“Medieval Currencies,” p.13). The policy, allowing mint of gold coins in Genoa, was dated 1149, although, the actual minting had begun almost at the same period as florin. The coin was called Genovino d’oro and obverse illustrated the main gate of Genova castle. On the reverse is depicted the cross with the inscription “CVNRADVS REX” which was designed in the name of the king who allowed minting gold (“Medieval Currencies,” p.14).
Mint of gold coins in multiple city-states of Italy signified the wealth and economic growth. Acceptance of the new currency presumed division of the society into classes. Low-income families continued using silver coinage. But the vast majority of citizens adopted gold money which symbolized richness. Many inhabitants of Florence or Venice were merchants. They were founders of development as much as bankers who created cheques. The purpose of cheques was in the reduction of carrying liquid cash on board of vessels. Many trading ships used to travel with barrels of gold coins, thus, making restrictions on buying and carrying goods. The innovation gained popularity among many traders as they could stop being afraid of pirates and plundering. They also improved the system of the ledger which registered accounts with debit and credit. Bank of the family Medici which lived in Florence made the most significant contribution to the banking system and implied methods of handling money not only within the country but also worldwide. Besides banks, the commerce had influenced other aspects of governance in each city-state. This is in reference to support of military sector and investment in building fortresses and other defensive constructions and units. Thus, in the middle of the 13th-century merchants of Venice started supporting militants with gold. At the end of the century, those army forces helped to overthrow the magnates and establish an organized and civilized system of governance with own regulations and laws (“The Italian City-States of the Renaissance”). Consequently, adoption of minted gold coins had lead to the rise of free city-states who struggled for independence and democracy.
Renaissance Era replaced Dark Ages and signified the new period of the history which was devoted to the significant development of the commerce. People moved from rural areas to cities where many opportunities were waiting for them. The 13th century for Italy was the most prominent as multiple city-states started to mint gold despite the restrictions of the Emperor. Therefore, those cities declared their intentions to be independent. Primarily, the gold was coming from trading operations with Muslims who dug it on the coast of Northern Africa. The advantage of Italian cities was in their location and constant access to the sea, and merchants became ones to expand wealth and liberate their cities from magnates.
“Encyclopedia of Money.” RETURN TO GOLD: 1300–1350, encyclopedia-of-money.blogspot.com/2011/10/return-to-gold-13001350.html.
“Italy During the Renaissance.” Italy During the Renaissance | Boundless World History, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-worldhistory/chapter/italy-during-the-renaissance/.
Johnston, Ruth A. All things medieval. an encyclopedia of the medieval world. Vol. 1, Greenwood, 2011.
“Medieval Currencies.” Money Museum, 2017, pp. 1–21., www.sunflower.ch.
“THE ITALIAN CITY-STATES OF THE RENAISSANCE.” Carrie, vlib.iue.it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/gilbert/03.html.