Introducing debkeepr

An R package for the analysis of non-decimal currencies

After an extensive period of iteration and a long but rewarding process of learning about package development, I am pleased to announce the release of my first R package. The package is called debkeepr, and it derives directly from my historical research on early modern merchants. debkeepr provides an interface for working with non-decimal currencies that use the tripartite system of pounds, shillings, and pence that was used throughout Europe in the medieval and early modern periods. The package includes functions to apply arithmetic and financial operations to single or multiple values and to analyze account books that use double-entry bookkeeping with the latter providing the basis for the name of debkeepr. In a later post I plan to write about the package development process, but here I want to discuss the motivation behind the creation of the package and provide some examples for how debkeepr can help those who encounter non-decimal currencies in their research.

You can install debkeepr from GitHub right now with devtools, and I am planning to submit the package to CRAN soon. Feedback is always welcome and any bug reports or feature requests can be made on GitHub.

# install.packages("devtools")

Pounds, shillings, and pence: lsd monetary systems

The system of expressing monetary values in the form of pounds, shillings, and pence dates back to the Carolingian Empire and the change from the use of gold coins that derived from the late Roman Empire to silver pennies that had taken place by the eighth century. Needing ways to count larger quantities of the new silver denarius, people began to define a solidus, originally a gold coin introduced by the Emperor Constantine, as a unit of account equivalent to 12 denarii. For even larger valuations, the denarius was further defined in relation to a pound or libra of silver. Though the actual number of coins struck from a pound of silver differed over time, the rate of 240 coins lasted long enough to create the custom of counting coins in dozens (solidi) and scores of dozens (librae). The librae, solidi, and denarii (lsd) monetary system was translated into various European languages, and though the ratios between the three units often differed by region and period, the basic structure of the system remained in place until decimalization began following the French Revolution.1

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