Family & Community Historical Research Society

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Investigating the diffusion of hindu-arabic numerals to replace roman in Britain, as evidenced by wills, probate inventories and other recurrent historical sources, during the period 1540 - 1700.

1. Introduction

This project originates from a section of the paper given by Dr Peter Wardley at the FACHRS Conference on 15 April 2000. On this occasion he outlined detailed research on this topic, the diffusion of hindu-arabic numerals to replace roman, in two areas of England: the small parish of Clee in South Humberside and the City of Bristol, based on evidence from probate inventories.

This is summarised in his research paper: 'Dead Reckoning to Count the Change: number and numerical representation in the early modern period'. In both areas, this major change in numerical representation occurred gradually between 1585 and 1650. Whilst easily unnoticed, this was a major shift in commonly used technology; the only comparable change to affect similarly the whole community in recent times was decimalization of the United Kingdom currency in 1971. 

Copyright FACHRS 2001