Clip a Bright Guinea: The Yorkshire Coiners of the Eighteenth Century
The definite history of the Yorkshire Coiners, John Marsh's magisterial book truly brings the era of the coiners to life. He skilfully paints a picture of a time of hardship, and the pressures that drove men to risk their lives in pursuit of riches.
When coins truly represented the power and wealth of the realm itself, it was perhaps inevitable that they formed the basis of a test of strength between the increasingly modern state and the disenfranchised people at its thrall.
But Marsh is careful not to mythologise the coiners. While they may have been feted as folk heroes in some quarters for their defiance against the state, Marsh shows them as criminals in a very real sense. Not only did they ultimately resort to murder in a vain attempt to escape justice, they defrauded local businesses and the Treasury alike. Not only that, but they enforced their status with physical force and threats of violence.
People turned out in their thousands to make the burial of the most prominent coiners, but it is doubtful that many were actively mourning the passing of these nascent gangsters.
To Clip a Bright Guinea is a brilliant book for anyone with an interest in the relationship between the state, its people and the concept of money.
Paul Carpenter: 2015-02-10