I’m reading Mrs Dalloway (it’s wonderful) and as in every British novel set in upper class 19th or early 20th century Britain they keep talking about how much people have a year. To keep his Indian divorcee, her children, and himself, Peter Walsh needs a job that will pay at least £500, he thinks, which is the same sum as Woolf herself believes a woman needs a year to write, £500 a year and a room of her own. I’ve always wondered how much £500 a year is, and it’s not excessive, it turns out, certainly not enough to keep servants today, though you’d be able to afford a room and kitchen of your own, and payments on your student debts too: in 1923 £500 had the same purchase power as £17949.01 today. That’s about what they pay us while we’re working on our PhDs in Norway, so yes, it’s enough to write.

You’ll find more converters for historical values of money in many different currencies at a very useful collection called Current Value of Old Money. There’s even a converter for the historical value of Norwegian kroner, from 1865 to today, kindly provided by Statistisk SentralbyrÂ, which really has a very impressive website.

19. October 2003 by Jill

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