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Changing Forms of Value: The Shift to Paper Money in Eighteenth-Century America

We tend to think of money as a familiar object that plays a role in our everyday lives. However, when we consider the changing nature of currency in colonial America, money appears differently—as a “social technology for the distribution of value.” Because money allows individuals to represent and share value in direct and visible ways, the transition to the use of paper money in the United States in the eighteenth century supplemented social connections derived from transactions and bolstered economic consumption.

In this podcast, historian Simon Middleton from the College of William and Mary discusses how his work participates in interdisciplinary discourses to examine the cultural, legal, and social dimensions of money. His reflections reach into the present moment by considering how the COVID-19 pandemic and previous recessions make us confront the ways that such financial crises are not necessarily a result of a lack of money, but the result of an uneven division and distribution of global value.


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