'Midas, transmuting all, into paper': the Bank of England and the Banque de France during the Napoleonic Wars
AbstractThis paper assesses Revolutionary and Napoleonic wartime economic policy. Suspension of gold convertibility in 1797 allowed the Bank of England to nurture British monetary orthodoxy. The Order of the Privy Council suspended gold payments on Bank of England notes and afforded simultaneous protection to the government and the Bank in pursuit of the conflicting goals of price stability and war finance. The government, the Bank of England and the commercial banks formed a loose alliance drawing on due political and legal processes and also paid close attention to public opinion. We suggest that the ongoing solvency of the Bank of England was facilitated by suspension and allowed the Bank to continue to make substantial profits throughout the Wars. It became acceptable for merchants to continue to trade with non-convertible Bank of England notes and for the government to finance the war effort, even with significant recourse to unfunded debt. These aspects combined to create a suspension of convertibility that did not undermine the currency. By contrast, the Assignats debacle had cost the French monetary system its reputation in the last decade of the 18th century and so Napoleonic finance had to evolve within a more rigid and limiting framework.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Department of Economics, University of Kent in its series Studies in Economics with number 1315.
Date of creation: Sep 2013
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Postal: Department of Economics, University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP
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Other versions of this item:
- Jagjit S. Chadha & Elisa Newby, 2013. "’Midas, transmuting all, into paper’: the Bank of England and the Banque de France during the Napoleonic Wars," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1330, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
- C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
- E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
- E4 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates
- E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
- N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-09-06 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBA-2013-09-06 (Central Banking)
- NEP-HIS-2013-09-06 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-MON-2013-09-06 (Monetary Economics)
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