I’ve started thinking and reading a lot about economics in the 1700s, and the meaning of money, credit, work, in the eighteenth century and revolutionary era. A friend in South Bend, Jeff Schneider, is actually a member of the Bank Note Society and has been generously giving me assignats for a few years now, knowing that I show them around in my classes. Students love seeing this old money.. They are so interesting! (And apparently not terribly expensive, if you are looking for a Valentine’s gift for your favorite revolutionary.)
For the aficionados of assignats, here is a link Jeff S. passed along; it is extremely detailed and impressive, http://assignat.fr/
Now, if I could just get my hands on some billets de banque from the Law Scheme…
Work in progress: “Did the ‘Ill Wind’ Blow No Good? The Law Scheme in French Economics, Linterature, and Art, 1721-31,” for the special no. of L’Esprit créateur issue on “Paris’s Imagined Capital: Early Capitalism and Modernity in France (17th-19th centuries).” Thinking about money changes everything. Hmmm.
Here is a less-quoted epigram by Walter Benjamin:
“A descriptive analysis of bank notes is needed. The unlimited satirical force of such a book would be equaled only by its objectivity. For nowhere more naively than in these documents does capitalism display itself in solemn earnest.”
Benjamin, “Tax Advice”
(Thanks to Marc Shell’s fabulous book Art and Money, for that must-quote.)
More to come! Anybody else out there inspired by Thomas Piketty and the Hoffman, Postel-Vinay, Rosenthal team?–Capital in the 21st Century and Priceless Markets are well worth the sometime technical language for the parts about French literature, art, culture. Piketty does a better job on César Birotteau. But Priceless Markets was so surprising to read; I feel like I learned a ton from watching the way they think. Their attitude on the Revolution was very unlike most of what I’ve read to date!