Programme of lectures

Meetings take place at 6-7.30pm on the third Tuesday of each month at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) 17 Russell Square, London WCIB 5DR except the December meeting which takes place in the Swedenborg Institute, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH.

Please note there is a change in the scheduled programme. The speakers of the February and May meetings may differ from the programme published in September 2019.

15 Oct Susan Eberhard, (Venue: IALS)

“Genuine” Foreign Heads and Characters: Silver Credibility in the China Trade

Abstract: The fineness of silver is invisible to the eye. In England, minted coins and the hallmarking system marked silver in ways that guaranteed its quality as sterling. Yet in global trading contexts, such as the nineteenth-century port of Guangzhou where Western commerce with the Chinese Qing empire was confined in the early nineteenth-century, the authenticity of the metal was under constant scrutiny. I consider several methods used for assessing and distinguishing the value of silver in the port as it was exchanged cross-culturally. Chinese merchants’ manuals instructed the reader on how to authenticate foreign silver coins and identify counterfeits, while shroffs’ marks either tested or validated coins. Marks on silverwares made for British or Anglo markets mimicked British hallmarks, though frequently included Latin-letter initials linked to specific Chinese retailers. Analyzing forms, intersections, and divergences, I ask how the credibility of silver was understood and conveyed.
– Susan Eberhard, University of California, Berkeley 

19 Nov Alexandra Magub (Venue: IALS)

Coinage in the Making of the Parthian Empire: New Findings from the Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum, Volume 2

Abstract: The Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP) is a nine-volume series that aims to study and catalogue the Parthian coin material of six major collections around the world, from London, Vienna, Tehran, Berlin, Paris and New York. Volume 2 of this series was recently completed by the SNP team based in the British Museum, and presents a reconstruction of the coin production of the Parthian Great King of Kings, Mithradates II (c. 122/121-91 BC). The examined corpus of coinage (numbering more than 8,900 specimens, with 1,997 of these included in the volume’s catalogue) has produced new insights into how the Parthian Empire was administrated financially across the 30-year reign of Mithradates II. It was during this period that the empire’s territories were consolidated following a succession of revolts in the vassal kingdoms of Elymais and Characene in what is now south-western Iran and southern Iraq. Additionally, tribal incursions into the north-east of the Parthian Empire had seen two of Mithradates II’s predecessors killed in action. Mithradates II subdued these threats and continued to expand the empire’s boundaries into regions such as northern Mesopotamia and Armenia. A handful of accounts from the classical world highlight the successes of this king in broad terms; however, the coin evidence provides a more detailed perspective of the empire’s transformation into a political superpower. This paper will focus on the significant coinage reforms that were undertaken during Mithradates II’s reign and demonstrate how this undervalued source can be used to augment our understanding of this period.
– Dr Alexandra Magub, V&A Museum

10 Dec Sam Moorhead (Venue: Swedenborg)

The Silver Coinage of Carausius

Followed by Presentation of the Medal, Christmas Party

Abstract: The silver coinage of Carausius (AD 286-93) is exceptional, the pieces being of a much higher purity than any coins struck for almost two hundred years.  In the 1970s, about 150 specimens were known, but now there are around 400, largely due to the advent of metal-detecting.  This talk will present a new analysis of these silver issues, enabled by the much larger sample pieces of coins available for study.
– Dr Sam Moorhead, British Museum

21 Jan Panagiotis Iossif (Venue: IALS)

Big Data, Big Troubles? Approaching ancient numismatics through big datasets; the Seleucid case

Abstract: In recent years, big data are considered the Eldorado for marketing purposes and for scientific research. Numismatics are an ideal field for collecting numerous data, since coins were produced in large series for which we conserve multiple specimens, if not complete series for a given coinage. In this lecture, I will address the question of how to build, enrich, and use databases for numismatic purposes. I will focus on the two datasets called “Seleucid Hoard Database” and “Seleucid Excavations Database”, i.e., two of the largest databases with coins from the Greek world (c. 21,000 coins all metals and denominations included). The former gathers the material from 253 hoards containing Seleucid coins; the latter does the same for excavation coins from 80 different sites. I will try to show the usefulness of these large databases, since they allow to ask questions related to the volume of coins in circulation, the velocity of coin circulation, the level of monetization of an economy, the numismatic profiles of archaeological sites; therefore, transposing in the Greek world the model created by Richard Reece (and others) for coin circulation in Roman Britain. This type of analysis will be presented from a methodological point of view and the method will be considered as complementary (if not competing) of die studies for a series of questions.

-Professor Panagiotis P. Iossif, Radboud University, Nijmegen

18 Feb Early Career Lectures (Venue: IALS)

(1) Laura Burnett

For change and charitie or for advertising and profit?: To what extent are token issuers motivated by intangible rewards for token issuing?

Abstract: This paper will introduce my PhD research into 17th-century tokens and early results of a national survey before building on some of these results, and other evidence, to discuss how we can unpick the potential motivations for token issuers. The mid-17th century in Britain saw a widespread issuing of tokens and marked a watershed, from the use of anonymous or opportunistic items as tokens to specially produced, personalised tokens where the name of the issuer and their location is clearly stated. Previously seen as issued as a social good or for private profit this paper will argue that, in the case of 17th-century tokens we can also see a deliberate exploitation of the token’s advertising and reputation boosting effect. As a visible and tangible, mass-circulated evidence of the issuer’s ability to have their pledge accepted, the tokens advertised the trustworthiness of the issuer to all who saw and handled them. The volume of contemporary documentary evidence that exists about the issuers, outside the survival of their tokens, allows us to link the issue of tokens to the issuer’s career stage and their involvement in other forms of pledging and credit markets. Using a variety of evidence I will explore this argument both in this period, and as a potential model for others.
– Laura Burnett, Exeter University and South West Heritage Trust

(2) Ylva Haidenthaller

Medals in the Early Modern Swedish Society: significances and practice

Abstract: The 12 of June 1651, Courtier Johan Ekeblad sent a letter to his father Christopher describing the French ambassador’s departure from the royal court in Stockholm. The ambassador was rewarded with a medal attached to a golden chain worth 1000 ducats. Ekeblad’s letter narrates a custom that was common among the elites since the Renaissance, namely donating portrait-medals and thereby signifying alliances and friendship. Already a few years after Ekeblad’s letter, the practice started to become out-dated, and miniature-portraits were preferred gifts at the European courts. The portrait-medal was still in vogue; only its purpose had changed.
A medal illustrates Renaissance’s awareness of the individual, Baroque’s fondness of emblematic riddles as well as Enlightenment’s passion for taxonomy. Medals were a regular feature of early modern visual culture, and it is rare that an object allows conclusions on such multifaceted intended and even unintended usages, value concepts and interpretations. Yet, in comparison to medals’ former popularity and clear position within the visual culture, they are today frequently overlooked. My ongoing thesis aims to remedy this by contributing to the knowledge of practices related to medals c. 1560–1790. The thesis concentrates on two main questions: How did the use of medals change during the investigated period? How did the use of medals affect medals’ visual execution and vice versa? The medals issued by the Swedish court might due to their manageable quantity offer an insight to similar practices mirrored at other European courts and lead from a smaller to a greater perspective.
– Ylva Haidenthaller, Lund University

17 Mar John Sheehan (Venue: IALS)

Viking-age silver bullion from southern Scandinavia and the Baltic in Ireland


21 Apr Jesper Ericsson (Venue: IALS)

Jacobite medals at the Hunterian

Abstract: For many today, the Jacobite rising of 1745 conjures up a romantic notion of a young prince attempting to recover a lost kingdom. But in reality, this adventure was a bloody failure for the exiled Stuart dynasty who claimed the throne from abroad. For many of their supporters, the Stuarts were freedom fighters who were being denied their God-given right to rule. But for those that opposed them, Jacobites were traitors who threatened the stability of the nation. Many medals were produced on both sides relating to this period – mainly commemorative, but also those that were intended to show an individual’s allegiance or be used as propaganda. ‘Chasing the Jacobite Dream’ is an exhibition due to run at The Hunterian in Glasgow between March and June 2020. The display will examine the contrast of medals being produced not only to fuel a propaganda war, but also to fulfil a burgeoning collector’s market. Alongside Jacobite medals from The Hunterian’s collection, contemporary medals cast specially for the exhibition by students from the City of Glasgow College will explore the ’45 and Bonnie Prince Charlie from a contemporary perspective along themes of identity, rebellion and how Jacobites are portrayed in popular culture today. Jesper Ericsson, Curator of Numismatics at The Hunterian, will explore the evolution of the exhibition, from inception to final installation, weaving in the story of Jacobite medals and what the relevance of the rising and Bonnie Prince Charlie means to modern generations in Scotland.
– Jesper Ericksson, Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow

19 May Hiroki Shin (Venue: IALS)

The Radius of the Bank of England Note Revisited, 1720s–1820s

Abstract: This paper discusses the geographical and social penetration of the Bank of England note in Britain from the 1720s to the 1820s. Its research methodology draws on John Clapham’s official history of the Bank of England (published in 1944), in which Clapham examined what he called ‘the radius of the Bank Note’ using the records of claims for lost Bank of England notes. Significantly expanding upon Clapham’s early attempt, the present research analyses a data set compiled from around 10,000 lost note claims that are found in the Lost Note Books in the Bank of England Archives. The conventional understanding of historians has been that throughout the eighteenth century, the Bank of England note circulated only in London and the Home Counties. The lost note claims indicate that there were an increasing number of Bank Note users outside these areas, especially in the later part of the century. After 1797, when the Bank of England suspended cash payments in response to the wars with France, claims from English provinces and from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland increased even more. Yet the Bank Note’s geographical penetration was uneven. Not only economic conditions but also social and cultural factors established the patterns of the Bank Note’s diffusion. A close examination of the Lost Note Books provides important clues about how the Bank of England note became a dominant currency in British society.
– Hiroki Shin, Science Museum, London

16 Jun Roger Bland (Venue: Swedenborg)

Problems in Ancient Numismatics II: Single finds versus hoards: what kinds of information can we gain from them?

AGM, President’s Address, Summer Party

Abstract: The study of numismatics in recent years has been dominated by the study of coin finds and these are normally divided into hoards and single (or stray) finds. The two categories have often been studied in isolation from each other. This paper will look at the blurring at the edges of these two categories and will consider the different sorts of information that can be gained from them, drawing on the work of a recent research project on Iron Age and Roman coin hoards from Britain and the database of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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