Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Federici's most quoted passage is on monetization

The following passage from Federici on money and monetization in lower Burma (c. 1569) has to be the most quoted passage in his work:

"The currant money that is in this Citle, and throughout all this Kingdome is called Gansa or Ganza, which is made of Copper and Lead: It is not the money of the King, but everie man may stampe it that will, because it hath his just partition or value: but they make many of them false, by putting overmuch lead into them, and those will not passe, neither will any take them. With this money Ganza, you may buy Gold or Silver, Rubies and Muske, and other things. For there is no other money currant amongst them. And Gold, Silver and other Merchandize are at one time dearer then another, as all other things bee. This Ganza goeth by weight of Byze [viss], and this name of Byza goeth for the account of the weight, and commonly a Byza of a Ganza is worth (after our account) halfe a Ducket, litle more or lesse: and albeit that Gold and Silver is more or lesse in price, yet the Byza never changeth: everie Byza maketh a hundreth Ganza of weight, and so the number of the money is Byza" (Duties and Currency in Pegu, p. 140).

Lieberman quotes it:

"As late as 1569, Cesar Federici had observed that nonbarter trade throughout the Lower Burma was conducted in privately produced lumps of copper-lead alloy called ganza: 'With this money Ganza, you may buy Gold or Silver, Rubies and Muske, and other things. For there is no other money currant among them.' Ganza was an inordinately bulky medium--that money is very weightie, for fortie [units] is a strong Porters burthen" -- and seems to be associated with a high-level of barter and in-kind payments" (p. 121, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 1984).

The claim is that silver was used but that copper was the basic medium of exchange during Bayinnaung's reign (1551-1581). This is supported by a string of citations on the same page. Among the citations supporting copper usage are Tomes Pires, U Kala's Burmese Chronicle, and the 1586-87 description of Ralph Fitch also published in the SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research (SBBR):

"Their current money in these parts is a kind of brasse which they call Gansa, wherewith you may buy Gold, Silver, Rubies, Muske, and all other things. The Gold and Silver is Merchandise, and is worth sometimes more, and sometimes lesse, as other wares bee. This brasen money doth goe by a weight which they call a Biza; and commonly this Biza after our account is worth about haife a Crowne or somewhat lesse" (Fitch, p. 8).

Reid also quotes Federici:

"In most of Burma and Arakan the common coin was gansa, an amalgam of base metals, preferably copper and tin but often lead, which was measured by weight. ‘It is not the money of the king, but every man may stamp it that will, because it has his just partition or value’ (Frederici [sic] 1581: 254; Pires 1515: 99, 96-97)" (Reid, Anthony (1995) Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce: 1450-1680, Volume Two: Expansion and Crisis, p. 97)