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The rise and fall of the dollar (or when did the dollar replace sterling as the leading reserve currency?)

  • EICHENGREEN, BARRY
  • FLANDREAU, MARC

We present new evidence on the currency composition of foreign exchange reserves in the 1920s and 1930s. Contrary to the presumption that the pound sterling continued to dominate the U.S. dollar in central bank reserves until after World War II, we show that the dollar first overtook sterling in the mid-1920s. This suggests that the network effects thought to lend inertia to international currency status and to create incumbency advantages for the dominant international currency do not apply in the reserve currency domain. Our new evidence is similarly incompatible with the notion that there is only room in the market for one dominant reserve currency at a point in time. Our findings have important implications for our understanding of interwar monetary history but also for the prospects of the dollar and the euro as reserve currencies.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 13 (2009)
Issue (Month): 03 (December)
Pages: 377-411

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:13:y:2009:i:03:p:377-411_99
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  1. Barry Eichengreen, 2005. "Global imbalances and the lessons of Bretton Woods," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  2. Paul R. Krugman, 1984. "The International Role of the Dollar: Theory and Prospect," NBER Chapters, in: Exchange Rate Theory and Practice, pages 261-278 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Choudhri, Ehsan U & Kochin, Levis A, 1980. "The Exchange Rate and the International Transmission of Business Cycle Disturbances: Some Evidence from the Great Depression," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 565-74, November.
  4. Robert A. Mundell, 2000. "A Reconsideration of the Twentieth Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 327-340, June.
  5. Chinn, Menzie & Frankel, Jeffrey, 2008. "The Euro May over the Next 15 Years Surpass the Dollar as Leading International Currency," Working Paper Series rwp08-016, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Barry J. Eichengreen & Jeffrey Sachs, 1984. "Exchange Rates and Economic Recovery in the 1930s," NBER Working Papers 1498, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Flandreau, Marc & Sussman, Nathan, 2004. "Old Sins: Exchange Rate Clauses and European Foreign Lending in the 19th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 4248, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Peter Temin, 1991. "Lessons from the Great Depression," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262700441, June.
  9. Accominotti, Olivier, 2009. "The sterling trap: foreign reserves management at the Bank of France, 1928–1936," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(03), pages 349-376, December.
  10. Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Wright, Randall, 1989. "On Money as a Medium of Exchange," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 927-54, August.
  11. FFF1Alexander A. NNN1Weinreb, 2003. "Change and instability," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 1(12), pages 373-396, September.
  12. Eichengreen, Barry & Sachs, Jeffrey, 1986. "Competitive devaluation and the Great Depression : A theoretical reassessment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 67-71.
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