'Bank Money': The Rise, Fall and Metamorphosis of the 'Transferable Deposit'

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

David Fox and Wolfgang Ernst (eds.), Money in the Western Legal Tradition - Middle Ages to Bretton Woods (Oxford University Press)


This chapter presents the doctrines that support the notion of ‘transferable deposit’ as the historical explanation to ‘bank money’. It discusses the medieval practice of bailment of money as the ancestor of the bank deposit, and the emergence of the modern legal doctrine of the bank deposit from the medieval bailment of money. As a legal concept, the bailment of money denotes the delivery of money for a particular, or in effect, any given purpose. Where the purpose was not carried out, inasmuch as the bailee was not obligated to keep the specific coins separately, he was not liable to the bailor for the money in detinue. The chapter connects this notion to the modern monetary system where both ‘central-bank money’ and ‘commercial-bank money’ are in the form of credit to a bank account and the extinguishment of one debt, and the creation of another, facilitate a legal basis for the ‘transferable deposit’ and its use as ‘bank money’.

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