In order to appreciate the present status of the controversy over bimetallism and the practical aspects of the question, some knowledge of the world's experience with the double standard is necessary. Not only are questions of fact involved in the theory of the subject, but the attitude of the different states towards it is determined much more by historical precedents and actual conditions than by theoretical considerations. In the present sketch only an outline of the history of bimetallism can be presented, and more space must be given to the statement of the results of experience than to the details.

At the outset it should be stated that bimetallism existed as a fact long before any theory of the subject was devised. It was not indeed until quite late in the nineteenth century that it became a question for academic discussion, and the use of the word bimetallism belongs to still more recent times. The formal histories of the subject do not usually go back beyond the opening years of the nineteenth century, but, though the early experience is not so instructive as the later, some knowledge of it is necessary to a complete understanding of the subject, and we shall, therefore, devote our first section to it.