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This database contains images and descriptions of ca. 475 European banknotes featuring portraits of canonical persons from their country's national history. Here are some instructions for navigating, searching and browsing the database.

Searching (by country or category)

    Clerics; Composers; Creative writers; Economists/entrepreneurs; 
    Explorers/adventurers; Insurgents/activists; Military; Monarchs/rulers/statesmen; 
    Painters/sculptors/architects; Saints; Scholars/scientists; Women.


Trawling (and general navigation tips)

  • You can trawl the entire database for a particular term or word of your choice by using the search box in the navigation bar.
  • Clicking the Banknotes tab at the top of each screen will lead you back to this welcome page.
  • The "navigation box" on the left will lead you to the various sections of the SPIN Interactive Resources.
  • The "toolbox" allows you to print records in this database or to create stable URL-links to them (useful for embedding in digital documents or for source-referencing).
  • Clicking the logo in the left-hand top corner will take you back to the main website of SPIN, the Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms.

Relevance of a banknotes database

European banknotes from the pre-Euro period provide, from country to country, an intriguing and visually interesting menu of the commemorative culture and self-image of the twentieth-century nation state. Widely disseminated and in everyday use, they were hardly noticeable as an ideological factor but imperceptibly reinforced the recognizability of historical figures in national terms, and legitimized the modern state as the end-product of a national growth process.

They are a salient example of "banal nationalism", a subtly propagandistic proclamation of the state's national identity so widespread and unobtrusive as to be almost unnoticeable "background noise" in everyday life. Such notes date mostly from the 1930s (when national-historical portraits began to be used on currrency alongside symbols and abstract ornament) to ca. 2000, when the Euro came into use and the habit of using portraits began to decline also in non-Euro countries.

This portion of the SPIN website presents a selection of those European banknotes that carried historical portraits, often of writers or intellectuals. In many cases, it provides us with engraved portraits of important national consciousness-raisers whose likeness is not widely available elsewhere.

Further explanations and bibliographical references are given on the Resources>Banknotes section of the main SPIN website.

Disclaimers, copyright, terms of use

For an explanation of the user interface, disclaimers, notes on copyright and terms of use, click here