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The Glitter of Gold: France, Bimetallism, and the Emergence of the International Gold Standard, 1848-1873

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Author Info

  • Flandreau, Marc

    (Professor of Economics, Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Paris)

Abstract

This book studies the so far unexplored operation of the international monetary system that prevailed before the emergence of the international gold standard in 1873. Conventional wisdom has it that the emergence of gold as a global anchor was both an inescapable and desirable evolution, given the exchange rate stability it provided and Britain's economic predominance. This study draws on a wealth of archival sources and abundant new statistical evidence (fully detailed in the appendix) to demonstrate that global exchange rate stability always prevailed before the making of the gold standard. This was despite the heterogeneity among national monetary regimes, based on gold, silver, or both. The reason for the stability before the establishment of the gold standard is France's bimetallic system. France, by being in a position to trade gold for silver, and vice versa, effectively pegged the exchange rate between gold and silver at its legal ratio of 15.5. Part I of the book studies exactly how this mechanism worked. Part II focuses on the respective behaviour of private concerns and arbitrageurs on the one hand, and authorities such as the Bank of France on the other hand, in order to underline the constraints and opportunities that were associated with bimetallism as an international regime. Finally, Part III provides a new view on the collapse of bimetallism and its replacement by a gold standard. It is argued that bimetallism might well have survived, and that the emergence of the gold standard was by no means inescapable. Rather, it resulted from a massive coordination failure at both national and international levels - a failure that was a preview of the interwar collapse of the gold standard.

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Bibliographic Info

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This book is provided by Oxford University Press in its series OUP Catalogue with number 9780199257867 and published in 2004.

ISBN: 9780199257867
Order: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199257867.do
Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199257867

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Marc Flandreau & Kim Oosterlinck, 2011. "Was the Emergence of the International Gold Standard Expected?Melodramatic Evidence from Indian Government Securities," Working Papers CEB 11-001, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Flandreau, Marc & Jobst, Clemens, 2005. "The Ties that Divide: A Network Analysis of the International Monetary System, 1890 1910," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 977-1007, December.
  3. Marc Flandreau & Stefano Ugolini, 2011. "Where It All Began: Lending of Last Resort and the Bank of England During the Overend, Gurney Panic of 1866," Working Papers 0007, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  4. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/605 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Tena-Junguito, Antonio & Lampe, Markus & Fernandes, Felipe Tâmega, 2012. "How Much Trade Liberalization Was There in the World Before and After Cobden-Chevalier?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(03), pages 708-740, September.
  6. Flandreau, Marc & Oosterlinck, Kim, 2012. "Was the emergence of the international gold standard expected? Evidence from Indian Government securities," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(7), pages 649-669.
  7. John Maloney, 2006. "Britain's single currency debate of the late 1860s," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 513-531.
  8. Lin, Justin Yifu & Fardoust, Shahrokh & Rosenblatt, David, 2012. "Reform of the international monetary system : a jagged history and uncertain prospects," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6070, The World Bank.
  9. Antoin Murphy, 2005. "Corporate Ownership in France: The Importance of History," NBER Chapters, in: A History of Corporate Governance around the World: Family Business Groups to Professional Managers, pages 185-222 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Edvinsson, Rodney, 2012. "The international political economy of early modern copper mercantilism: Rent seeking and copper money in Sweden 1624–1776," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 303-315.
  11. repec:onb:oenbwp:y::i:111:b:1 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Bojanic, Antonio N., 2011. "Final Years of the Silver Standard in Mexico: Evidence of Purchasing Power Parity with The United States," MPRA Paper 45535, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 27 Jul 2011.

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