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a monetary system under which one metal is the universal standard and basis of monetary circulation.
Copper, silver, and gold monometallism can be distinguished. Copper monometallism existed in Rome during the second and third centuries B.C.; silver monometallism prevailed in Russia (1843–52), the Netherlands (1847–75), India (1852–93) and China, where silver monometallism had existed for a long time and was officially abolished only in 1935. Gold monometallism was introduced in the late 18th century in Great Britain and was adopted in Germany (1871–83), France and Belgium (1873–74), Russia and Japan (1897), and the United States (1900).
While coins of gold or silver constitute the basis of exchange under monometallism, coins of other metals circulate as well. With gold monometallism, for example, in addition to the gold coins that have unlimited payment power and are freely minted, copper and silver coins also circulate, as well as credit money (banknotes) and paper money. All may be freely exchanged for gold. Coins of silver and copper must be accepted in limited sums.
With the development of capitalism, gold monometallism emerged as the monetary system that best satisfied the needs of the prevailing economic order.