Historian, Professor, Sustainability Advocate

Jeremy L. CaradonnaPhD

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat"

"Fluctuat nec 

"In vino veritas" 

French Currency 18th Century

Eighteenth-Century French Currency

1 Liard = 3 deniers (or 1/4 sol)

1 Sol = 12 deniers

1 Livre (from the city of Tours) = 20 sol

1 Ecu = 3 livres

1 Pistole = 10 livres (sometimes 20)

1 Gold Louis = 20 livres (then 24 livres after 1726)

1 Marc = 50 livres

The average worker earned 3-10 livres per day.

At left, there is a picture of the paper money called "assignats" that the leaders of the French Revolution printed and put into circulation. Before 1789, and with the exception of some (disastrous) experiments with paper money early in the 18th century, France (and most of Europe) used metallic coins as currency. A wide variety of these coins circulated in the period. The "livre tournois" was the basic unit of currency in France. It was the dollar or pound or euro of the day. However, the livre tournois was both a coin and an abstract unit of currency. That is, various coins from around Europe might be "worth" x number of livres and used as exchangeable currency in France. If you handled money in this period, you might come across all manner of coins, but you would ordinarily conduct business in terms of livres (or its smaller monetary units). The other French coins, such as the écu or the marc, were less commonly exchanged. You might also handle coins from other parts of Europe: a real or a doubloon (both from Spain), a florin, ducat, or sequin (from Italy), a thaler (Germanic lands and Austria; this is the origin of the word etymological root of "dollar"), or a guilder/gulden (from the Low Countries). In most cases, these coins did not show numerical values; rather, the value of a coin was set by official royal edicts.