NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Bretton Woods International Monetary System: An Historical Overview

Michael D. Bordo

NBER Working Paper No. 4033 (Also Reprint No. r1774)
Issued in March 1993
NBER Program(s):   IFM   ME   DAE

This paper presents an overview of the Bretton Woods experience. From an historical perspective. I analyze its performance relative to other international monetary regimes. its origins. its operation. its problems and its demise. In the survey I emphasize both issues deemed important at the time and raise questions which may be of interest for the concerns of the present. Part 2 compares the macro performance of Bretton Woods with preceding and subsequent monetary regimes. The descriptive statistics on nine key macro variables point to one startling conclusion -- the Bretton Woods system. in its full convertibility phase 1959-1971, was the most stable regime for both nominal and real variables in the past century. Part 3 surveys the origins of Bretton Woods: the perceived problems of the inter war period; the plans for a new international monetary order and the steps leading to the outcome -- the Articles of Agreement. Part 4 examines the preconvertibility period from 1946 to 1958: the problems in getting the system started including the dollar shortage and the weakness of the IMF; and how the system evolved to convertibility and the gold dollar standard. Part 5 analyzes the heyday of Bretton Woods 1959 to 1971 in the context of the gold dollar standard and the famous three problems: adjustment. liquidity, and confidence. Part 6 considers the emergence of a "de facto" dollar standard in 1968 and its collapse in the face of a massive U.S. induced inflation. Part 7 considers why Bretton Woods was so stable and yet so short-lived. It also considers the importance of adherence to credible rules in the design of an effective international monetary system.

download in pdf format
   (1103 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (1103 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Published:

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Garber The Collapse of the Bretton Woods Fixed Exchange Rate System
Bordo and Eichengreen w14532 Bretton Woods and the Great Inflation
Eichengreen and Temin w16202 Fetters of Gold and Paper
Bordo The Bretton Woods International Monetary System: A Historical Overview
Eichengreen w10497 Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us