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Economic Insights from the Seventeenth Century: A Treatise on the Alteration of Money

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (Nov. 29, 2011)--Christian's Library Press is happy to announce the release of A Treatise on the Alternation of Money by Juan de Mariana, SJ (1536-1624). The book is the first in the CLP Academic series, Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law, and is translated by Fr. Patrick Brannan, SJ, and appears with an introduction by Alejandro A. Chafuen, a leading expert on the economic thought of the Spanish scholastics. 

In A Treatise on the Alternation of Money we find an insightful analysis concerning how monetary debasement and inflation increase prices, which proceeds to illustrate how such increases do not affect everyone equally—in effect, causing a revolution in fortunes. In a parallel argument, Mariana explains how government, if given control of other forms of private property, would also debase the values of those forms and use them according to its own interests.

Although written in the early seventeenth century, Mariana’s analysis remains relevant for today’s economic conversation. Mariana was one of the first moral theologians to grasp the relationship between stable currency and social flourishing. “Money is hardly ever debased without calamity to the state,” wrote Mariana. “Profit for the moment is intimately connected with manifold ruin along with rather great disadvantages.”

As Chafuen writes, Mariana “was one of the most extraordinary persons of his time,” and this treatise shows that “Mariana understood that currency debasement threatened the entire economic order of the kingdom. Property rights, the ability to trade goods and services, and fair wages—all of these things require stable currency."

Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law provides first-ever English translations and editions of some of the most formative but previously inaccessible texts that shaped the disciplines of economics, ethics, and law in the early modern era and beyond. These inexpensive translations of seminal texts, produced in association with the Refo500 project, will make substantive contributions to contemporary interdisciplinary discussion. These primary sources are ideal for use in classrooms and reading groups.


Juan de Mariana (1536-1624) was a Spanish Jesuit priest and theologian. He occupied the chair of theology at the University of Paris from 1569-1574 before returning to Toledo in Spain, where he remained until he died. Mariana’s intellectual contributions are numerous. In addition to his work on politics and economics, he is remembered for a magisterial work on the history of Spain.

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