Sophie Hemmings (KCL) - 2019-20 Students

The monetary economy of Carolingian Italy, c.750-850

My doctoral research will consider the historical significance of Carolingian coinage in northern Italy between the Frankish invasion of Italy in 754 and the imperial coronation of Louis II in 855. During this period, the region between the Alps and Rome was subject to Carolingian rule as the Lombard kingdom and its institutions were gradually integrated into the Frankish realm. At the start of the period, the Lombard kingdom was strong and well organised with its own long-established numismatic traditions, as has been shown by Chris Wickham. From 781, Charlemagne’s Capitulary of Mantua prompted a reform of Italian coinage, bringing it more closely in line with Carolingian monetary practices north of the Alps. Yet, at the heart of the study lies a paradox posed by the surviving body of evidence: although the documentary evidence would suggest that coin-use was prevalent, the archaeological record supports the altogether different conclusion that coin-use in Northern Italy operated in a fundamentally different way to the rest of the Carolingian empire. This research thus presents a singular opportunity to study the impact of Carolingian monetisation and monetary culture on northern Italy, with the further possibility to consider the extent to which such practices were integrated into northern Italian society with resulting social and administrative changes. I suggest that in Italy coined money played a different role, being more about cultural and political statements than economic transactions, which has wide-reaching implications for our understanding of eighth- and ninth-century Italian society compared with contemporary northern Europe. It raises questions as to whether the latter was more monetised or commercialised, or whether we should be thinking of different models or forms of monetisation, perhaps reflecting differences in elite power and urban-rural relations.

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