FORUM: Christine Desan’s Making Money/Editor’s Note

Gautham Rao

Gautham Rao is Associate Professor of History at American University, Editor-in-Chief of Law and History Review, and interim editor of The Docket.

Ed. Note: Since it appeared in 2014, Christine Desan’s book, Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2014) has captured the attention of legal and economic historians interested in some of the most foundational questions of the legal history of money. Desan argues that the way governments–and the people behind them–design money has had profound effect, not only on how people exchange money, but on the shape and rules of the marketplace. The book is sweeping in the truest sense of the word: ranging through five hundred years of history to uncover the constitutional nature of money and the ways in which money was both the subject and object of legal and political governance.

The book has been so influential that a few years ago, Law and History Review Associate Editor Jedidiah Kroncke and I began discussing the possibility of a scholarly forum that would explore Desan’s arguments from different perspectives. We weren’t immediately sure which scholars to turn to, but we did know we wanted to host this on The Docket, outside of any paywall, to try to reach as broad an audience as possible.

The indefatigable Jed Kroncke brought the project to fruition. Even with his duties as editor, professor, and scholar, he made the time to find three brilliant scholars who were interested in commenting on Desan’s book. He also managed to secure the thoughtful response by Desan. Elinor Aspegren, Law and History Review‘s Editorial Assistant, helped edit and format the submissions in the final stretch. The result, we believe, is an insightful and provocative exploration of one of the most important legal histories of our time. We thank Christine Desan, Katie A. Moore, Samuel Knafo, and Roy Kreitner for their outstanding contributions, and we look forward to the continued dialogue about Christine Desan’s Making Money.

-Gautham Rao, Editor-in-Chief, Law and History Review.