Measuring Worth is a fantastic online application which aims to give a modern day value to sums of money from the past. For example, how much was £20 worth in 1760? Even for someone with an understanding of economic concepts such as inflation and purchasing power, understanding the value of “old money” can be tricky. For example, I was taken aback when my father referred to purchasing “8 pints of beer for a pound” when he was a young man, not having realised quite how powerful inflation is, even over a relatively modest span of time.
In terms of the classroom, such knowledge can definitely help provide students with an enriched understanding of historical events. I recently had a group of engineering students with whom I used this website to work out the current value of several tens of thousands pounds from the 1880s. This enriched context provided them with a much better understanding of the scale of the project in question, and they seemed to enjoy the experience: apparently, economics can be fun.