The Laws of London, 978
For so long as Ethelred ruled over England the standard for London in the matter of
coinage was the standard for all his dominions. His regulations about counterfeiting were
applied to all towns under his jurisdiction. The reduction in the number of mints had as
its object a better coinage system through more careful supervision. But Ethelred was a
weak king and doubtless he did not enforce his laws.
C.5. Also they said that it did not appear to concern them that there was trade
between coiners of false money and merchants who take good money to the coiners and buy
from them so that they use impure and light coins, and then they furbish their goods and
bargain and sell them to those who make coins secretly for money and they cut the name of
other money on it and not of the impure. Wherefore it seems to all wise people that there
should be three men of upright character. And if any of them be accused, be he English or
foreigner, let him be put to the ordeal. And they decreed, that the coiners should lose
their hand, and it should be placed above the money-smithy. And the coiners who work in
the woods, or who make similar things anywhere, are guilty of their lives, unless the king
wishes to have mercy on them.
C.6. And we command, in order that no one shall speak ill of pure money of
correct weight, that it shall be struck only in whatever port it may be struck in my
kingdom, upon pain of my displeasure.
C.7. And concerning merchants who bring false or chipped money to our port, we
have said that they shall defend themselves if they are able; if they cannot, let them
incur the penalty of their wer or of their life just as the king wishes; or, as we
have said, let them prove themselves innocent in this ordeal that they knew there was
nothing wrong with the money itself with which they carried on their business; and
afterwards let him suffer the loss due to his carelessness, so that he exchange it with
the decreed moneyers for money pure and of correct weight. And let the port-reeves who
were cognizant of this offense be guilty of the same blame as the false moneyers, unless
the king pardon them or they are able to exculpate themselves by the same cyrsth, or said
C.8. And the king advises and commands his bishops, earls, and aldermen and all
the reeves that they take care to see to those who make false money and transport it
through the country, just as it has been ordered both among the Danes and English.
C.9. And let the moneyers be fewer than they were before; in every important
port three, and in every other port let there be one moneyer; and let them have co-workers
in their operations; let them make the money pure and of correct weight throughout the
same witan as we have said before. And they who guard the ports shall take care
upon pain of my displeasure that each coin conform to the standard at which my money is
received and let each of these be stamped so that fifteen orae make one pound. And
let all guard the money just as I have commanded and as we have chosen all to do.
From: Benjamin Thorpe, ed., Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, (London:
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1840), pp. 300-303; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H.
Coulson, eds., A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce
Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 137-138.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998