HIST2006 Small Change and Big Changes: Money and Power in Europe, 284-1000

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 2
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 42
  • Module Manager: Dr Jonathan Jarrett
  • Email: TBC
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

One source for the ancient and early medieval worlds that appears to need no translation is their money: do we not all know what a coin is and does? Perhaps not. The Roman Empire was a highly monetised society that demanded taxes in coin and punished coin forgery harshly, but the early medieval west mostly could not do these things, while even in Rome's eastern continuation, the Byzantine Empire, money did not stay the same for long. So what purposes did coinage serve in these centuries? Were they even economic, or were coins tools of other kinds of power? This module takes historical, economic and iconographic approaches to the coinage of early medieval Europe to try to solve these questions, using the coinage itself and whatever other sources can be brought to bear. The module includes classes in Special Collections in the Brotherton Library in which ancient and medieval coins will be handled and read.


  • 1) To awaken and/or boost students' awareness of material culture as a historical source, through the familiar medium of coinage.
  • 2) To treat the history of the late Roman and late Antique worlds as a single unit through surviving money and sources about money.
  • 3) To cause students to reflect on coinage's use as a tool for the propagation of political power.
  • 4) To demystify and explain the economic imperatives that drive the circulation of money by studying it in a period of early adoption.


The course will be taught in eleven lectures and nine tutorials, of which latter four will be handling sessions in Special Collections. The lectures will be as follows:

  • - Introduction to the Late Antique Period and its Money
  • - The Roman Monetary System at the Turn of the Third Century


  • - Fine Gold of Constantinople: The Age of the solidus
  • - 'Barbarian' Coinages


  • - Imperial Money Beyond the Empire
  • - Silver Pennies and the Growth of the Northern Economy
  • - New Users: The Vikings in Britain and at Home


  • - Small Change: Byzantine Bronze and its Users
  • - Offa and Charlemagne
  • - The New Money of Islam


  • 11) Coinage in the Tenth-Century World

The tutorials will be as follows:

  • 1) Handling Coins, Reading Coins, Using Coins as Evidence [in Special Collections]
  • 2) Gods and Politics: The Meanings of Roman Money


  • 3) Portraiture and Religion [in Special Collections]

- Living in the Shadow of Rome: Coin in the Post-Imperial West

  • - Persians, Byzantines, Sogdians… Chinese? Silk Road Coin Finds
  • - Image and Audience: Understanding the sceatta (in Special Collections)


  • - Mint, Date and Countermark: Small Change in Byzantium (in Special Collections)
  • - Links and Hegemonies: The Silver Penny and Royal Power
  • - What’s It All About? Post-Carolingian Money, Anonymous Bronze and the End of the solidus

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students ought to be able to:

  • 1) Analyse and explain the different meanings and uses of money in pre-modern and non-industrial Occidental societies.
  • 2) Read and identify a range of ancient and medieval coins.
  • 3) Use numismatic source material to approach historical questions more broadly.
  • 4) Communicate explanation and analysis of the subject clearly and effectively, orally and in writing.

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 1 x 2,000-word essay, due by 12 noon on Monday of teaching week 8 40
Group Project Wiki on assigned topic 10
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 50


Exam type Exam duration % of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) 2 hr 0 mins 50
Total Percentage (Assesment Exams) 50

Private Study

Reading to prepare for seminars and for presentations; self-directed reading around the topic; researching, preparing and writing assessments; reading and revision to prepare for the examination.

Progress Monitoring

Module leader’s office hours and essay feedback meetings; in-class feedback on contributions.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Workshop 4 1 4
Lecture 11 1 11
Tutorial 5 1 5
Private Study Hours 180
Total Contact Hours 20
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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