Siege Notes - Windows to the Past - Part I

snwttpp1.jpgSiege warfare has been practiced by invading armies since time immemorial. As a form of warfare it attained its highest degree of development in Europe from the late 1500s until the introduction of more powerful weapons made the siege of towns and cities unnecessary. Throughout the years, a by-product of this type warfare was the production of "siege notes", paper money of necessity, to be used to sustain commerce for those under siege.

Part I discusses siege techniques and the sieges of Leyden, Lyon, Colberg, Mayence, Mantova, Erfurt, Zara, Palmanova and Osoppo, all of which issued siege notes during their defense.

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The Use of Bank Notes as an Instrument of Propaganda - Part I


tuobnaaiop.jpgAll propaganda is designed to influence public opinion. Such communications take many forms including the subtle use of propaganda both printed and concealed which may be found on a nation's paper currency. Paper money can be a handy tool in the hands of a cunning propagandist, as seen in the examples given in Part I. These examples cover propaganda found on paper money issues from the American Revolution through the occupation of Europe during World War II.

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John Law's Banque Royale and the Mississippi Bubble


JL01.jpgThe Banque Royale of 1719 was France's first experiment with a legal tender paper currency. This new money replaced gold and silver coin as a medium of exchange, while at the sasme time retiring the tremendous state debt accumulated by the late king Louis XIV. The bank's notes were eagerly sought after by Frenchmen anxious to buy shares in the MIssissippi Company, a get righ quick scheme devised by the Scottish economist, John Law. The idea was to exploit the riches of France's undeveloped Louisiana Territory through the purchase of shares of stock. The frenzy of speculation which followed created what has become known as the MIssissippi Bubble.

Law was known throughout Europe for his unique economic theories and for his questionable behavior. History has labled him economist, gambler, banker, murderer, royal advisor, rake, adventurer and exile. When the bubble burst a year later many Frenchmen found themselves millionaires, while others were ruined in the crash. Was Law a benefactor or villain? Our story will give you the facts and you can decide.

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The Bank Notes of the French Revolution, Part I (The Royal Assignats)



Conditions in France at the close of the eighteenth century were bad both economically and socially. In the predominately agrarian economy crops were failing and tax collections low. Louis XVI's poorly managed monarchy had left France a country of unbalanced budgets, little foreign trade and bad credit - all ingredients for bankruptcy.

The church and aristocrats controlled all the wealth to the detriment of the poor and downtrodden, many of whom were starving. Hard money was being horded. With the peasant class becoming increasingly restless, the stage was set for trouble.

To get the economy moving the National Assembly decided to confiscate church lands for the benefit of the state. Thus the paper currency known as the "assignat" was born. It was initially intended that these notes would be assigned to various parcels of confiscated land until the land could be sold; thereby creating a currency that would stimulate the economy, benefit the poor and forestall more serious trouble. It was not to be, however, as the peasants took matters into their own hands. Their storming of the Basille was the opening shot of the French Revolution.

This is the story of the assignats, first issued under Louis XVI's reign and later continued by the First Republic after the king's execution on the guillotine. Part I will address the royal assignats.


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Bank Notes of the French Revolution, Part II (The Assignats of the First Republic)



The monarchy of Louis XVI came to an end on 22 September, 1792 when a Republican formed "Convention" created the First Republic. The Convention was anxious to suppress all past references to the monarchy. This desire carried over to France's paper money. Louis XVI's portrait was soon replaced by a new series of livre notes containing Republican symbols and slogans propagandizing the new regime. In 1792-1793 new Republican notes gradually appeared in denominations of 5 to 500 livres. As inflation mounted, the old livre system was replaced by new "franc" notes.

The franc issue of 18 Nivose l'An III ( 1 July 1795) contained values up to 10,000 francs. As inflation ran rampant these notes lost over ninety percent of their value and were, in turn, replaced by "Promesses de Mandats Territoriaux" in 1796. By now the long suffering public had had enough, refusing to accept these new notes in their everyday business. A last ditch effort, using paper money known as "Rescriptions de l' Emprunt Force" also failed within months of it's introduction, whereupon France reverted once again to an entirely specie economy. The First Republic lasted only six years before Napoleon Boneaparte declared himself Emperor Napoleon I of France.


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