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victorianera london

via Wikimedia Commons and Jerry Woody/Wikimedia Commons

Two Victoria gentleman and a shilling from 1894.

If you had a time machine and woke up in Victorian-era London (1837-1901), you would have difficulty breathing because of the air quality. You'd also walk around plugging your nose because of the poor sanitation and probably be very confused when purchasing anything because of the monetary system.

J. Draper, a London historian and tour guide, explained why money was so different in the Victorian era in a popular YouTube video with nearly 300,000 views. “Let me try and explain how pounds, shillings and pence worked,” J Draper opens her video.

First, in modern-day England, they have two units of money, pounds and new pence, which work like dollars and cents. One hundred pence equals one dollar. However, back in the Victorian era, there was a third unit of money between pence and pounds called the shilling. The shilling was phased out starting in 1971.

To give an example of how money worked in Victorian England, she shared the example of journalist Henry Mayhew, who in 1851 said it costs 21 pounds (£), 9 shilling (s) and 11 pence (d, for denarius) to set yourself up as a baked potato seller. Written out, the cost looks like this: £21 9s 11d.

The breakdown goes like this: 12 pence are in a shilling and 20 shillings make a pound. To further complicate things, there were two more units of money in the 19th century: the 1/4 pence, known as a farthing and a 1/2 pence, known as a half penny (pronounced "haypnee").

"I hope this helps, but like with any measurement system, there's no substitute for just practicing it," J. Draper concludes her video.