Currency derives value not from the preciousness of the substance of which it is made, but trust in the government which issues it.

A young Venetian merchant named Marco Polo wrote a remarkable book chronicling his travels in China around 750 years ago. The Book of the Marvels of the World was full of strange foreign customs Marco claimed to have seen. One, in particular, was so extraordinary, Mr Polo could barely contain himself: “tell it how I might,” he wrote, “you never would be satisfied that I was keeping within truth and reason”. Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to witness an invention that remains at the very foundation of the modern economy: paper money. Tim Harford tells the gripping story of one of the most successful, and important, innovations of all human history: currency which derives value not from the preciousness of the substance of which it is made, but trust in the government which issues it.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

(Image: Ancient Russian money, Credit: RomanR/Shutterstock)

Available now

9 minutes

Last on

Mon 31 Jul 2017 03:50GMT

Sources and related links

William N. Goetzmann -  Money Changes Everything: How Finance made Civilisation Possible, Princeton, Chapter 9

William N. Goetzmann and K. Geert Rouwenhorst - The Origins of Value, Oxford University Press 2005

Broadcasts

  • Sat 29 Jul 2017 02:50GMT
  • Sat 29 Jul 2017 19:50GMT
  • Mon 31 Jul 2017 03:50GMT

Podcast