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RNS and BNS Grants for XVIth International Numismatic Congress, September 2022

The Royal Numismatic Society and British Numismatic Society are each offering 10 x £750 bursaries (20 in all), for attendance at the XVIth International Numismatic Congress in Warsaw in September 2021. 

Applications are invited from UK residents who are members of the RNS/BNS, or students (full- or part-time), or employees of UK academic institutions. Priority will be given to those who have submitted papers by the deadline, which is 31 December 2021. (If all bursaries have not been awarded by this date, we will consider further applications until 1 March 2022).

To apply please email the following to Henry Flynn, Hon. Secretary (hflynn@britishmuseum.org):

1 – abstract (max. 500 words)

2 – status (RNS/BNS member / Student / Staff)

3 – UK academic institution (where appropriate; independent scholars are also eligible). If from an institution, please state whether your institution has been approached for funding.

RNS Special Publication 55 recognised by judges of IAPN Book Prize

We were pleased to learn that Hodge Mehdi Malek’s Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the Early Islamic Period in Iran and Iraq: The Johnson Collection of Arab-Sasanian Coins, published by Royal Numismatic Society in 2019, has been awarded third place in the prestigious International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) 2020 Book Prize.

A preview of this groundbreaking two-volume work can found here. Copies are still available for purchase from Spink.

President’s Review of the Year 2020-21

Last year the pandemic hit us in March and we cancelled our meetings in March, April and May. By June we had recovered to the extent that we did hold that meeting online on Zoom and we were able to attract a good number of listeners.

This year the Society has been meeting entirely online, and both our ordinary meetings and Council meetings have been held on Zoom. And of course we have had to get used to attending meetings held that way. It is a very different experience from having meetings in the flesh, so to speak, and most of us miss the personal interaction that is possible with physical meetings. Giving a talk on Zoom can be a slightly soulless experience for the speaker – one has very little sense of the audience’s response. But there are advantages to meeting this way, particularly for a Society such as ours which has members across the whole of the United Kingdom and abroad. 

Indeed our Council has decided to continue meeting online for the foreseeable future, even if all the restrictions on physical meetings are relaxed. We have always sought to include people from across the country on Council and coming to London for a one hour meeting from the north of England or Wales or Scotland required considerable dedication. It’s much easier to ensure a wide representation from across the country now we are meeting online.

As far as our ordinary meetings are concerned, despite the drawbacks which I’ve mentioned, there are also benefits to meeting online: our audiences are rather larger than when we met in London and it has been particularly encouraging to see members from overseas joining us. At this time, we’re not totally certain where we will be meeting next year: we don’t yet know whether the IALS will make available their lecture theatre to us, they say they will decide in July. We would like have a mixture of online meetings, as we have an international panel of speakers next year, and hybrid meetings, where we will have physical meetings in London, but these will also be available to attend online. The joint summer meeting of ourselves and the BNS in Oxford next month will be a hybrid meeting and we will see how that goes. We’re very grateful to William Mackay of the BNS for organising that.

For the rest, I am glad to report that the Society has been able to continue most of its business in the usual way. Because we weren’t able to hold an AGM last summer, most of our Council members very nobly agreed to stay on for an extra year and I’m really grateful to them for doing that. Because of the continued disruption caused by the pandemic and particularly the lack of access to our post at the British Museum, we are not holding an AGM now. We do have nominations for next year’s Council and we will hold an EGM in the autumn, hopefully at our first meeting in October at which you will be able to elect a new Council.

The one change we’ve had is in the Treasurer role, where Peter Knapton retired last June and we co-opted Paul Hillin his place. I’m very grateful to him for taking on the job in very difficult circumstances and for his great helpfulness and cheerfulness. For the last year we have had very limited access to the British Museum, which remains our postal address, and this has meant that processing anything that has come in the mail, including letters and payments by cheque, not to mention books, has been very difficult to access. As a result, we aren’t currently in a position to complete our 2020 accounts (the Charity Commission are aware of this) and are now able to present you with our 2019 accounts. Our financial position remains healthy and are investments are looked after by Smith and Williamson. Thanks to Stefano Mazzola for continuing to act as the independent examiner of the accounts and to Tristram Hillgarth and Andrew Burnett for their wise advice on the Finance Committee. 

As ever I would like to thank the officers of our Society, as without all their very hard work, the Society’s affairs would not run as smoothly as they do. Our Honorary Secretaries Megan Gooch and Henry Flynn not only organise the meetings but also look after the membership, meetings, grants and many other things. 

Brad Shepherd has continued as Joint Librarian of both our Society and the British Numismatic Society and it has been very frustrating for him that the Warburg closed soon after the agreement with them over the management of the library was completed. Brad has done what he could over the last year, including filling some of the main gaps in our holdings, and we were glad to announce that the Library was able to reopen, albeit in a restricted way, in April. Please use it! We hope library cataloguing will be able to restart with the aim of ensuring that all the Society’s books are visible on the University of London’s online catalogue.

Your Vice Presidents Martin Allen and Helen Wang and our Hon. Vice President Andrew Burnett have all played an invaluable role in advising Council on medallists and honorary members and other matters. 

For the majority of our members, especially those overseas, the Society’s main publication, the Numismatic Chronicle,is probably the most important benefit of membership. This continues to come out with great regularity early in the year and it always contains excellent peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of subjects; it has the reputation of being one of the premier numismatic journals in the world. Richard Ashton, Marcus Phillips and Sue Tyler-Smith have edited the Chronicle very efficiently for many years now (Richard since 1998, Marcus since 2002 and Sue since 2014) and we owe them a huge debt. Richard has now stood down – NC 2020 was the last issue which he co-edited – and Marcus and Sue are standing down after NC 2021. 

Clare Rowan, who has edited two SPs, has taken over from Richard and now leads the editorial team. I am glad to say that Simon Glenn has taken on the role of Reviews Editor and Shailendra Bhandare of the Ashmolean Museum has agreed to join the editorial team to provide expertise on Asian numismatics, while the fourth member of the team will serve as Production Editor, on a paid basis, Dr Murray Andrews. Murray is author of Coin Hoarding in Medieval England and Wales and teaches at the University of Worcester.

Three new Special Publications were published in the last year: Ken Sheedy and Gil Davis (eds), Metallurgy in Numismatics 6 (SP 56) and Andrew Burnett’s ‘The Hidden Treasures of this happy Island.’ A history of numismatics in Britain from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (SP 58), a monumental three-volume work which we are publishing with the British Numismatic Society. I have edited these two works. Both these volumes are selling well, I’m glad to say. Thirdly, Jack Nurpetlian’s Coinage in late Hellenistic and Roman Syria: the Orontes Valley was published at the end of 2020, edited by Clare Rowan. There will be at least one more SP next year, by myself on the coinage of Gordian III and I’ll say more about that after this Review.

Very warm thanks to Matt Ball, for continuing to edit the Society’s monthly E-newsletter, an excellent way of keeping the Society’s members in touch with our activities, more important than ever during lockdown. Matt also looks after the Society’s website. We now have e-mail addresses for most Fellows, but there are still some for whom we don’t have an e-mail; please send your address to the Secretary if you didn’t receive this. We also continue to send out the biannual Money and Medals Newsletter to all members for whom we have email addresses. Thanks also to Matt andMegan for looking after the Society’s Twitter account and they have a plan to revamp the Society’s website next year.

We have had a full programme of meetings, all on Zoom, and these have been organised by our secretary Megan Gooch. Many thanks to our speakers: Fleur Kemmers, Jonathan Callaway, Emily Tilley, Maria Marsh, Hiroki Shin, Keith Rutter, our medallist, Anja Thomson-Rohde, Johanne Porter and Robert Iliffe.

In 2018 Council decided to commission a new medal and we are very grateful to Abigail Kenvyn, of the Royal Mint Museum, and Henry Flynn for helping us through this process. Natasha Ratcliffe and Robert Elderton submitted drawings for a medal and we chose Robert Elderton’s designs: the new medal will now be produced this coming year. 

The Society has long supported the work of the Money and Medals Network, which is run from the British Museum and produces a twice yearly newsletter, maintains a website with details of collections of coins and medals in regional museums around the UK, and also organises training events for curators of museums with such collections and other interested parties. In April Council learned with great concern that the Arts Council had declined the latest bid for funding, and the project would end imminently. Council agreed to offer a grant of £50,000 over 5 years, which would have been by some margin the largest grant we had ever offered, but, for reasons which escape me, the British Museum decided to close the project in September. This is very disappointing and the Steering Group is looking to see whether another organisation might pick up the project.

The Society has also given grants from the Casey, Kreitman and Marshall funds totalling £10,100 to:  Gunnar Dumke, Abdurahmon Sharifzola, Joe Cribb and Rebecca Neill.

We also awarded the Gilljam prize to George Watson for his book Connections, Communities, and Coinage: The System of Coin Production in Southern Asia Minor and the Parkes Weber prize to Bridget McClean.

Congratulations to François de Callatay on receiving our Society’s medal for this year; we look forward to hearing him speak in the coming session. 

I would also like to thank the other members who remained on Council this year: Claire Rowan, Matthew Ball, Simon Glenn, Abigail Kenvyn, Stanley Ireland and Jenny Adam

Lastly, I am sad to report the loss of 4 Fellows who have died over the last year: 

Dr Stewart Lyon died in March at the age of 94 was a doyen in the field of English numismatics. An actuary by profession, his interest was in Anglo-Saxon coinage, and he published a sylloge of his collection of over a thousand coins in the SCBI series, while the collection itself was deposited at the Fitzwilliam Museum. He also pioneered the technique of estimating die populations and was the first person to apply the formula developed by I J Good in 1953 to die-studies. I shall talk more about that in my presidential address. Stewart had a very strong sense of public service; he was active both in the actuarial profession and in numismatics, serving as president of our sister society, the British Numismatic Society. But more importantly he was a great mentor of younger scholars and always took time to help them, as I can myself testify. He will be sadly missed.

Michael John Anderson died in April at the age of 82. He was a frequent attender of our meetings and had a career in the diplomatic service and in 1986 appeared in the quarter-finals of Mastermind where his special topic was the plays of Harold Pinter. Closer to our interests, in 2013, he wrote a book, A Numismatic History of Ecuador. 

David Leslie Forbes Sealy died last November at the age of 87. He had a career in the Natural History Museum, but coins were his chief love and he was a great expert on Victorian pennies. He was also a stalwart of the London Numismatic Society.

John Goddard had a career as a biochemist at Glasgow University, and he was also an enthusiastic collector of ancient coins with a particular interest in mis-strikes and brockages. He published at least one article in the NC , but his main work, completed in his retirement, was the superb SNG in two volumes of the Glasgow University (mostly Hunter) collection of Roman Provincial Coins.

Lastly, I will also mention the death of Professor David Shotter of Lancaster University, although he was not a member of our Society. He was an expert on the Romans in the North West, and author of several books, including one on Nero, but in our context his main contribution was in publishing four volumes of finds of Roman coins in the North West of England, the first in 1990, and he pioneered the recording of single finds of Roman coins in Britain. He will be sadly missed.

Roger Bland,

President

POSTPONED: Joint BNS/RNS Summer Conference, July 10th 2021

It is with considerable regret that the British and Royal Numismatic Society’s joint Summer Meeting, which was to have been held as a hybrid event on Saturday 10 July, has had to be postponed.

The Meeting was planned such that it might allow members and others to meet face to face for the first time since February 2020, with the judgement that by July 2021 social distancing restrictions in England would have been lifted.

It is now clear that restrictions will remain in place for a further period and the physical venue, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, is duty bound to comply with government guidelines and respect the 2-metre social distancing rule.  

It is our intention that the Meeting will now take place at the same venue in Oxford on either 2 July or 9 July 2022. In the meantime, monetary refunds will be made to those who have already booked to participate, rather than hold over current bookings until next year.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this decision.

Joint BNS/RNS Summer Conference, July 10th 2021

Currency Systems: Reforms, Renewals and Failures

Fifty years after the United Kingdom implemented the move to decimalisation, the BNS and RNS are holding an all-day joint meeting which will focus on the reform and renewal of currency systems at different times and in different places.  The conference, titled Currency Systems: Reforms, Renewals and Failures will take place on Saturday 10 July 2021, starting at 9.30 am and closing around 4.45 pm, in the Headley Lecture Theatre at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The day will comprise a series of papers by leading scholars that will explore why changes were undertaken, what worked and what did not. It will look at the experience of currency reforms and renewal in the Ancient world, Europe and Britain c.500 – c.1650 and in the modern world after 1770. In so doing the Conference will seek to identify some common factors behind the success or failure of coinage system reform and renewal.

As a consequence of the restrictions arising from the pandemic the event will offer the option to attend in person or online (via Zoom). In person attendance will provide a welcome chance to meet up again face to face after the lockdown but places will be limited depending on the prevailing restrictions at any one time. It is expected that an easing of restrictions by July will allow more places to be available for in person attendance. Any availability of additional in-person places will be advised when available. On-line participation opens this event up to anyone interested in this subject wherever they may be.

PROGRAMME

This Conference will comprise a series of papers by leading scholars working on monetary history ranging from the Roman world, through the medieval period into modern times, and geographically, from the Mediterranean to Britain and the United States.

The day will be structured around four sessions each with two papers covering:

The Ancient World – Interpretation and Implementation

  • Interpreting the coinage reforms of Nero. Professor Kevin Butcher, The University of Warwick
  • Reforming currencies in the Roman imperial provinces: strategies and failures. Dr Dario Calomino, The University of Warwick

Europe. c.500 – c.1650 – Replacement and Revolution

  • The coinage reform of ‘abd al-Malik – why was it so successful? Marcus Phillips
  • The 13th-century Gold Revolution and the advent of the late-Medieval Gold Standard in Europe.
    Dr William Day, Medieval European Coinage Project, Fitzwilliam Museum, The University of Cambridge

Britain c.500 – c.1650 – Reform and Renewal

  • Late Anglo-Saxon England – Reform and Renovatio.  Dr Rory Naismith, Corpus Christi College, The University of Cambridge
  • Reform and Recovery: the Tudor Great Debasement.  Dr Murray Andrews, The University of Worcester

The Modern World – Transformation and Change

  • Transformation of the American Monetary System in the last years of the American Revolution.  Dr Andrew Edwards, Brasenose College, The University of Oxford
  • UK Decimalisation: Commonwealth and European Influences. Dr Andrew Cook

BOOKING YOUR PLACE

Attend in person at the Ashmolean, Oxford (£30/ticket), or attend online via Zoom (£10/ticket). Bona-fide students may attend online free of charge.

Initially 20 tickets for in-person attendance will be available, but if Covid restrictions ease up as expected then further tickets will be released. These will first be offered to persons who have booked to attend via Zoom (£20/upgrade ticket). Total Zoom attendees are limited to 100 persons.

TICKETS