International Conference: ‘Currencies of Commerce in the Greater Indian Ocean World’, Montreal, 22-24 April 2015

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. Continue reading “International Conference: ‘Currencies of Commerce in the Greater Indian Ocean World’, Montreal, 22-24 April 2015”