双语阅读 | 货币的历史

2021-05-31 22:51:19  每日学英语



Some of the earliest currencies were objects from nature. A notable example is cowrie shells, first used as money about 1200 BCE. Although they may seem a pretty random choice, the shells had a number of advantages: they were similar in size, small, and durable. While the mollusks that produce the shells are found in the coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, the expansion of trade meant that even some European countries accepted cowrie shells as currency. Shells in the form of wampum (tubular shell beads) were used as money by Native Americans. Another currency from nature was whale teeth, which were used by Fijians. And the people of Yap Island (now part of Micronesia) carved huge disks of limestone that eventually became currency and remain part of the island’s culture.



Counterfeiting dates to the invention of money. Even wampum was the target of counterfeiters. Forgery proved such a huge problem around the world that harsh penalties were enacted. Chinese currency from about the 14th century carried the warning that counterfeiters would be decapitated, and England was known for punishing perpetrators by burning them at the stake. In the American colonies too, death greeted early counterfeiters. Numerous measures were taken to prevent forgeries. Ben Franklin, who owned a firm that printed money for several colonies, notably misspelled Pennsylvania, believing that counterfeiters would correct the error in their forgeries. Today anti-counterfeiting measures are much more elaborate. For example, the $20 bill—the most counterfeited note in the United States—has raised printing and a watermark and security thread that are visible when the note is held to the light. However, penalties for counterfeiting have relaxed. In the United States, the maximum prison sentence is 20 years.



While the use of metal for money can be traced back to Babylon before 2000 BCE, standardized and certified coinage may not have existed until the 7th century BCE. According to many historians, it was during this time that the kingdom of Lydia (in present-day Turkey) issued the first regulated coins. They appeared during the reign (c. 610–c. 560 BCE) of King Alyattes and were made of electrum, a natural mixture of gold and silver. Crudely shaped like beans, these coins featured the royal symbol, a lion. Alyattes’ son, Croesus (reigned c. 560–546), reformed the kingdom’s currency, introducing silver coins and gold coins. Soon such currency began appearing elsewhere.

虽然金属货币的使用可以追溯到公元前2000年之前的巴比伦,但直到公元前7世纪才可能出现标准化和认证的造币。根据许多历史学家的说法,正是在这段时间里迪亚(今天的土耳其)王国发行了第一批受管制的硬币。 它们出现在国王阿里亚特斯统治时期(约公元前610年至560年),由琥珀金制成,琥珀金是黄金和白银的天然混合物。这些货币的形状就像豆子,带有狮子的皇家象征。阿里亚特斯的儿子克罗伊修斯(公元前560-546年在位)对该王国的货币进行了改革,引入了银币和金币。 不久,这种货币开始出现在其他地方。


About the 6th century BCE leather and animal hide began to be fashioned into currency. Early ancient Rome reportedly used this type of money. It was also found in such areas as Carthage and what is now France, and Russia is believed to have used leather money into Peter the Great’s reign (1682–1725 CE). The Chinese emperor Wudi (reigned 141–87 BCE) created currency out of skins from his personal collection of white stags. It was fringed and decorated with elaborate designs. Although no longer used, leather money may have left a lasting legacy: some believe it gave rise to the use of buck as slang fordollar.

大约在公元前6世纪,皮革和动物皮开始流行为货币。据报道,早期的古罗马使用这种类型的货币。它也在迦太基以及现在的法国等地区发现,据信俄罗斯已经将皮革钱用于彼得大帝的统治时期(公元1682-1725年)。 中国汉武帝(公元前141-87年在位)从他的个人收藏的白鹿皮中提取出了货币。它带有流苏并饰有精美的设计。 尽管不再使用皮革货币,但皮革货币可能会留下持久的遗产:一些人认为,皮革货币导致了使用巴克 (buck 雄鹿、公羊、雄兔、雄袋鼠等雄性动物)作为美元的俚语。


Given that paper is widely believed to have originated in China, it is fitting that that country introduced paper currency. This innovation is widely thought to have occurred during the reign (997–1022 CE) of Emperor Zhenzong. It was made from the bark of mulberry trees (so, in a sense, money really did grow on trees). By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, paper money had spread to other parts of the world. The bulk of this currency, however, was not money in the traditional sense. Instead, it served as promissory notes—promises to pay specified amounts of gold or silver—which were key in the development of banks.

考虑到人们普遍认为纸币起源于中国,中国引入纸币是合适的。 人们普遍认为这一发明出现在真宗皇帝统治期间(公元997–1022年)。它是由桑树的树皮制成的(因此,从某种意义上说,金钱确实确实在树上生长)。 到18世纪末和19世纪初,纸币已遍及世界其他地区。但是,大部分这种货币不是传统意义上的货币。相反的,它作为期票-承诺支付特定数量的黄金或白银)-这是银行发展的关键。


Unsurprisingly, currency comes with a number of problems, one of which concerns fiat money. This is currency that is issued on the “fiat” (decree) of a sovereign government and, unlike gold and silver coins, has no intrinsic value.


Countries can thus issue such money at will, and some did (and do), potentially making the currency worthless. This became such a problem that in 1821 the United Kingdom—then the leader in international finance—introduced the gold standard. In this monetary system, the standard unit of currency is typically kept at the value of a fixed quantity of gold, which increases confidence in international trade by preventing governments from excessively issuing currency.

因此,各国可以随意发行这种货币,而有些国家(确实)发行了货币,这可能使该货币变得一文不值。 这个问题变得如此严重,以至于在1821年,英国-当时是国际金融的领导者-引入了金本位制。 在这种货币体系中,货币的标准单位通常保持在固定数量的黄金价值上,通过防止政府过度发行货币来增加对国际贸易的信心。

Eventually, other countries, including Germany, France, and the United States, adopted the gold standard. However, the system had its drawbacks. Notably, it limited a country’s ability to isolate its economy from depression or inflation in the rest of the world. After the Great Depression (1929–c. 1939), countries began to rethink the gold standard, and by the 1970s gold was no longer being tied to currency.


Since then there have been a number of extreme cases of hyperinflation. A notable case is Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, when the country issued currency in denominations as high as $100 trillion—which was worth about a loaf of bread.



While credit has existed for ages, the first universal credit card was not introduced until 1950. That year Americans Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara founded the Diners Club. Other cards were soon created, and in 1959 American Express debuted a plastic card.尽管信用卡已经存在了很长时间,但知道1950年才引入了第一张通用信用卡。那一年,美国人拉尔夫·施耐德和弗兰克·麦克纳马拉创立了大来俱乐部。很快便创建了其他卡,1959年美国运通推出了塑料卡。

We have IBM to thank for the magnetic stripe on credit cards, which was introduced in the 1960s to contain account information. Because of the stripe, merchants no longer needed to make phone calls to obtain authorization from credit companies. In the 1990s, cards began to have chips embedded in them to encrypt their information, providing even greater security.

我们要感谢IBM的信用卡磁条,该磁条于1960年代引入,用于包含账户信息。 由于存在条纹,商家不再需要拨打电话来获得信贷公司的授权。20世纪90年代,信用卡中开始嵌入芯片以对信息进行加密,从而提供更高的安全性。

Other changes involved account balances. In the beginning, credit card users were required to pay the full balance at the end of the month. Eventually, American Express allowed consumers to carry balances—though interest was applied—and other credit companies quickly followed. Customers took advantage of this development—maybe a little too much. In 2017 American consumers were carrying $1 trillion in credit card debt.

其他更改设计帐户余额。 首先,要求信用卡用户在月底前支付全部余额。 最终,美国运通(American Express)允许消费者结余-尽管加了利息,其他信贷公司也迅速跟进。 客户利用了这一发展优势-可能太多了。 2017年,美国消费者背负着1万亿美元的信用卡债务。


Bitcoin is a digital currency system created in 2009 by an anonymous computer programmer or group of programmers known as Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency is not issued by a central bank and is not regulated, though a decentralized network of computers keeps track of transactions.

比特币是由匿名计算机程序员或一组称为Satoshi Nakamoto的程序员于2009年创建的数字货币系统。 尽管分散的计算机网络可以跟踪交易,但该货币不是由中央银行发行的,也不受监管。

Users of Bitcoins are anonymous, known only by their digital wallet ID. The value of Bitcoins is determined by bidding, similar to the way stocks are valued. How are Bitcoins created? In a process called mining. This involves a race between computers to solve complex math problems and thus verify blocks of transactions. While that may sound easy, it isn’t. It’s estimated that nearly seven trillion attempts may have to be made before a solution is discovered.

特币的用户是匿名的,只能通过其数字钱包ID来识别。 比特币的价值由竞价决定,类似于股票的估值方式。 比特币是如何创建的? 在一个称为挖掘的过程中。 这涉及计算机之间的竞赛,以解决复杂的数学问题,从而验证交易量。 虽然听起来很简单,但事实并非如此。 据估计,发现解决方案之前可能需要进行近7万亿次尝试。

In the end, the owner of the winning computer gets newly created Bitcoins, and the system is made more secure. The cap for the number of Bitcoins that can be created is 21 million, and more than 17 million have been created so far.