When you reading about history, and someone mentions a particular amount of money, how can you understand what that amount means?
Mark Bernstein writes about Price and History, suggesting that an amount of money in one historical period can’t just be scaled by inflation to make sense of it in another era – there are other considerations. He proposes that this would be a great project for someone to turn into a website.
I encountered this trouble when reading a commentary on Revelation written in 1904; the author had converted the amount of money that the city of Sardis had taken from the Romans in the first century – to rebuild the entire city after an earthquake – into 1904 pounds sterling. How do I begin to understand how much money that is? How much would it cost to rebuild a city in the era of Roman slavery, compared to the relative advances in rebuilding that we have, but higher labour costs? It boggles the mind.