Silver Circulation Worldwide: Initial Steps in Comprehensive Research


  • Patrick Manning University of Pittsburgh
  • Dennis O. Flynn
  • Qiyao Wang



Published data on silver flows and stocks, gathered in volumes published by Moneta, provide a basis for initial steps in documenting flows of silver production and commerce from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Collection and publication of comprehensive data on silver flows will generate the first comprehensive study of flows of a commodity in the world economy of recent centuries, and will facilitate advances in global economic history. This article presents estimates from 1400 through 1900, showing annual flows of production, cumulative stocks (accounting for various levels of wear and tear), and the long-term rate of growth in silver stocks.

Recent economic historical study of silver in the world economy, from the 15th century onward, has stopped short of comprehensive quantitative analysis. This group uses recently published date from the nineteenth-century silver boom and the international meetings associated with the gold standard to begin such comprehensive analysis. Results indicate that, while world population grew at an annual rate of 0.45% per year, 1700– 1900, silver stock rose at an approximate 0.7% per year in the same period. To support this confirmation of rapid monetization of the world economy, the article describes the procedure of estimating global flows and stocks out of competing estimates of silver flows.






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