New College of the Humanities

Inflation and the Moral Order

The new phenomenon of inflation in 16th-century England not only disrupted the medieval social order, it also challenged the traditional moral censure of usury and capital expansion.

Minting the new coinage of 1560-1 (from Holished's 'Chronicles')The coincidence of a period of rapid inflation with the quincentenary of the Tudor accession creates a temptation to make easy comparisons between the price increases of the sixteenth century and our modern experience. The temptation should be resisted. Tudor inflation was unlike present-day inflation, just as Tudor society was unlike our own. If Tudor inflation heightened the sense of 'self-discovery' it did so in ways that were not straight-forward and not always familiar to our present ways of thinking.

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