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Exchange Rates, Prices, and Wages, 1277–2008

Edvinsson, Rodney, Tor Jacobson och Daniel Waldenström (red.) (2010). Exchange Rates, Prices, and Wages, 1277–2008. Stockholm: Sveriges Riksbank and Ekerlids Förlag.

Rodney Edvinsson, Tor Jacobson, Daniel Waldenström

Swedish monetary and financial history is fascinating yet perplexing. The authors of this book - economic historians from the universities of Göteborg, Lund, and Stockholm, in co-operation with Sveriges Riksbank - present new data concerning the long-term evolution of monetary units, exchange rates, consumer prices and wages in the second millennium. In this period the Swedish monetary system has changed significantly but there are also similarities that span centuries.

In the Middle Ages, different currencies were used in different parts of the country. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, five or six domestic currencies - copper, silver, gold and paper monies - were used side by side with floating exchange rates relative to each other. While the use of several currencies was common in the early modern period, the copper standard added to the complexity in Sweden.

Sweden introduced paper notes in 1661 - the first European country to do so - and this was followed by the formation of Sveriges Riksbank, the world's oldest central bank, in 1668. The high transaction costs involved in handling copper money contributed to the attraction of paper notes. I n the 18th century it was experience of paper note inflation that produced the first clearly formulated quantity theory for fiat money.

The new data on real wages suggest that unskilled labourers were better off in the late Middle Ages than in the mid-19th century. The newly constructed Consumer Price Index shows that the average annual rate of inflation in Sweden 1290-2008 was 2.5 per cent, remarkably c10se to Sveriges Riksbank's present two per cent inflation target. Historically, the Swedish currency has been weak compared with the currencies of its main trading partners. Commitments towards a stable currency have been made time and again, but great events, such as wars and deep economic crises, have often, though by no means always, shattered such assurances.

Daniel Waldenström

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