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When did the dollar overtake sterling as the leading international currency? Evidence from the bond markets

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  • Chiţu, Livia
  • Eichengreen, Barry
  • Mehl, Arnaud

Abstract

We offer new evidence on the emergence of the dollar as the leading international currency focusing on its role as currency of denomination in global bond markets. We show that the dollar overtook sterling much earlier than commonly supposed, as early as in 1929. Financial development appears to have been the main factor helping the dollar to overcome sterling's head start. The finding that a shift from a unipolar to a multipolar international monetary and financial system has happened before suggests that it can happen again. That the shift occurred earlier than commonly believed suggests that the advantages of incumbency are not insurmountable. And that financial deepening was a key determinant of the dollar's emergence points to the challenges facing currencies aspiring to international status.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiţu, Livia & Eichengreen, Barry & Mehl, Arnaud, 2014. "When did the dollar overtake sterling as the leading international currency? Evidence from the bond markets," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 225-245.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:111:y:2014:i:c:p:225-245
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2013.09.008
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    Cited by:

    1. Chiţu, Livia & Eichengreen, Barry & Mehl, Arnaud, 2014. "History, gravity and international finance," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 104-129.
    2. Michael Bordo & Eric Monnet & Alain Naef, 2017. "The Gold Pool (1961-1968) and the Fall of the Bretton Woods System. Lessons for Central Bank Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 24016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nicolas End & Marina Marinkov & Fedor Miryugin, 2019. "Instruments of Debtstruction: A New Database of Interwar Debt," IMF Working Papers 2019/226, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Barry Eichengreen & Livia Chiţu & Arnaud Mehl, 2016. "Network effects, homogeneous goods and international currency choice: New evidence on oil markets from an older era," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(1), pages 173-206, February.
    5. Òscar Jordà & Moritz Schularick & Alan M. Taylor & Felix Ward, 2019. "Global Financial Cycles and Risk Premiums," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 67(1), pages 109-150, March.
    6. Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, 2015. "The euro as an international currency," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01144371, HAL.
    7. Emmanuel Farhi & Matteo Maggiori, 2018. "A Model of the International Monetary System," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(1), pages 295-355.
    8. Barry Eichengreen, 2013. "ADB Distinguished Lecture Renminbi Internationalization: Tempest in a Teapot?," Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 30(1), pages 148-164, March.
    9. Barry Eichengreen & Arnaud Mehl & Livia Chiţu & Thorsten Beck, 2019. "Mars or Mercury? The geopolitics of international currency choice," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 34(98), pages 315-363.
    10. Elena Gerko & Hélène Rey, 2017. "Monetary Policy in the Capitals of Capital," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 721-745.
    11. Barry Eichengreen & Domenico Lombardi, 2017. "RMBI or RMBR? Is the Renminbi Destined to Become a Global or Regional Currency?," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 16(1), pages 35-59, Winter/Sp.
    12. Barry Eichengreen & Chitu Livia & Arnaud Mehl, 2014. "Stability or upheaval? The currency composition of international reserves in the long run," Globalization Institute Working Papers 201, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    13. MĂRGINEAN Silvia Cristina & ORĂȘTEAN Ramona, 2020. "The Challenges Of Reforming The International Monetary System In The Post Covid-19 World," Studies in Business and Economics, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 15(3), pages 61-73, December.
    14. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher M. Meissner, 2020. "Original Sin and the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 27067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Naef, Alain, 2021. "Central Bank Reserves during the Bretton Woods Period: New data from France, the UK and Switzerland," SocArXiv he7gx, Center for Open Science.
    16. Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, 2015. "The euro as an international currency," PSE-Ecole d'économie de Paris (Postprint) hal-01299083, HAL.
    17. Andreas Schrimpf & Vladyslav Sushko, 2019. "Sizing up global foreign exchange markets," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, December.
    18. Papadia, Andrea, 2017. "Sovereign defaults during the Great Depression: the role of fiscal fragility," Economic History Working Papers 68943, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    19. Eichengreen, Barry & Flandreau, Marc & Mehl, Arnaud & Chitu, Livia, 2017. "International Currencies Past, Present, and Future: Two Views from Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780190659455.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Foreign public debt; International monetary system; International currencies; Role of the US dollar; Network externalities; Path dependency;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F30 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - General
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative

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