Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC)
McGill University, Montreal, Canada
22 to 24 April 2015
Organizer: Dr. Steven Serels (Harvard University)
Establishing and maintaining a national currency is widely perceived to be a central prerogative of modern, independent nation-states. The value of these currencies are recognized as dependent on policies of central banks and on transactions in transnational currency exchanges. Local prices and national economic statistics are commonly presented in terms of the national currencies. However, this has not always been the case. Until the second half of the twentieth century, there were a number of widely-used, competing currencies circulating throughout the greater Indian Ocean World (IOW), including, for example for the western IOW, the Indian rupee, the Maria Theresa thaler, the British pound, the French franc, the East African shilling, the Italian lira, the Turkish lira, the Egyptian pound, the Ethiopian dollar and the Iranian rial. In addition, there were a number of commodity currencies including salt bars, cloth squares, grain, beads and shells; as well as, paper money, promissory notes, bills of exchange and other drafts. Both buyers and sellers had flexibility in terms of determining the currencies used in market transactions. The prevailing currencies in ports, inland depots, trade centres and local markets frequently differed from the official currency used by government officials to chart trade statistics and to record official prices.
Until the post-independence period, market values were often dependent on two simultaneous calculations – the relative demand/scarcity of the good to be traded and the perceived valuation of the set of currencies available in the market notably, in relation to higher value coins, their relative gold and silver content. Large scale merchants, small-scale peddlers and individual consumers had to be knowledgeable about both the local worth of any commercial good and the relative value of currencies both locally and regionally. Without formal, regulated exchange markets, merchants, peddlers and consumers were required to both think globally and locally in order to make these simultaneous calculations.
This conference seeks to interrogate the social, political and economic implications of this multi-currency economic system. Papers are welcome on any region of the greater IOW, which is taken to include Eastern Africa, the Red Sea, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, East Asia, and the western Pacific Ocean. Suggested topics include:
- The economics of currency exchanges
- The history of individual currencies
- The development and impact of mints
- The role of commodity currencies
- The practice and impact of hoarding
- The social structures that underpinned currency valuations
- Government efforts to control currency flows
- Communi ties of knowledge around currency values
- The effects of adopting a national currency
The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. E. Roger Owen, the A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History, emeritus, at Harvard University.
Those interested in participating should submit an abstract of no more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 October 2014. The review process will be completed by 1 November 2014. Papers will be pre-circulated and must be submitted by 15 March 2015. We anticipate that selected papers will be published in a volume to appear as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Indian Ocean World Studies series.
A registration fee of $200 USD ($60 USD for students) is payable by 15 March 2015. The late registration fee will be $250 USD ($100 USD for students).
Visit the website at http://indianoceanworldcentre.com/2015currencyconference