In my brief time as an ‘academic’, where my research was focused on hyperinflationary episodes in history, two of my favourite related-and-incredibly-nerdy dinner-party facts were:
- The first paper money (fiat) inflation in history was recorded in thirteenth century China, during the Yuan Dynasty (which now seems oddly ironic); but
- Prior to that, the Roman Empire had had its own episodes of high inflation, when various emperors debased the coinage by using progressively smaller amounts of silver in their coin production.
The Money Project recently came out with this infographic:
There is a part of me that thinks there’s a bit of representative bias here. The way it’s presented makes it sound as though the Roman Empire collapsed because of all the debased coinage.
I’m pretty sure that the Roman Empire collapsed because it got too big to be centrally managed by one person without the aid of the internet, telephones, telegraphs, faxes, cars, planes, and all the modern conveniences. Also, mad emperors and crazy political shenanigans.
That said, I’m sure that debased coinage and disrupted trade didn’t exactly help.
Fun dinner party fact though.
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