Allen - Unger Database European Commodity Prices 1260-1914

The Database presents price data, published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in machine-readable form. The original goal was to examine changes in prices and their relation to international trade in early modern Europe. Price series were then expanded from just staple grains and beyond a limited number of years to the entire period ranging from the earliest known series from the High Middle Ages and down to 1914. The geographical range as well as that of commodities continues to expand with continued research and coding of published data. With the larger collection of figures studies of market integration as well as welfare of consumers and other topics has become possible. Continuing support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation of Britain and the British Academy has made possible the addition of new data and refinement of existing files, all of which are available here in MS Excel CSV format.

Each data series for a commodity contains the source of the figures, the numbers reported in the indicated published source, and prices in grams of silver per litre. The conversions are based on the known quantity of silver in the relevant coinage and the size of the current measure used. For more complex conversions there is a data file with the amounts of silver in the specific coins reported in the price series. Where the measures of the commodities were by weight rather than by volume the specific gravity of the grain is assumed to have been 0.8. Adjustments have been made where measures were heaped, that is not leveled to the size of a standard measure. For commodities other than grains where different assumptions or conversions had to be used in order to generate the price series in grams of silver per litre the method of recalculation is indicated in the citation for the specific data series. A separate set of MS Excel files give conversions used for various currencies to generate prices in grams of silver and also details of volume and weight measures.

The raw data allow for manipulation or other conversions by anyone who wishes to exploit them in this form. The measures of grams of silver per litre make possible comparisons of the price series over time and across political boundaries. Having the figures in both forms should save duplication of the effort of transferring data to a digital format and make available the products of extensive research on price history by a number of scholars, done largely in the middle of the twentieth century as part of an international project, and of more recent work as well.

The collection of price series is not complete. We would welcome any additions or suggestions for links to other price series. The method of submission of new data is outlined on the web site. We welcome any corrections or suggestions for changes in the material now posted. Please contact us with any comments: bob.allen@nuffield.oxford.ac.uk or richard.unger@ubc.ca

We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the University of British Columbia and the British Academy for financial and logistical support. We are also grateful to Shannon Parker and Stephanie McWhinnie for all they did to gather and record the data. Our thanks also go to Judy Maxwell for her extensive work in developing Internet access to the Database and to Yves de Roo and the rest of the staff of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study and to Don McLenaghen for the latest contribution to making this data available to anyone who might want to use it.

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