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Europe's Great Depression: coordination failure after the First World War


  • Nikolaus Wolf


In this paper I survey and reinterpret the extensive literature on Europe's Great Depression. I argue that Europe could not exploit its vast economic potential after 1918, because the war had not yet come to an end--indeed, it did not end before 1945. Both domestic and international institutions suffered from a lack of reciprocal trust and commitment, which can be clearly illustrated in the realm of monetary policy, but affected many other areas of policy-making, such as energy or migration policies. These institutions in turn affected expectations and thereby the extent to which, for example, expansionary policies could be effective. Copyright 2010, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Nikolaus Wolf, 2010. "Europe's Great Depression: coordination failure after the First World War," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 339-369, Autumn.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:26:y:2010:i:3:p:339-369

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 389-428, June.
    2. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2000. "Fixing for Your Life," NBER Working Papers 8006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2002. "Fear of Floating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 379-408.
    4. Broadberry,Stephen & O'Rourke,Kevin H., 2010. "The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521708395, March.
    5. Michael Bordo & Michael Edelstein, 1999. "Was Adherence to the Gold Standard a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" During the Interwar Period?," NBER Working Papers 7186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Flores Zendejas, Juan, 2017. "Averting defaults in turbulent times: controversies over the League of Nations preferred creditor status," Working Papers unige:98451, University of Geneva, Paul Bairoch Institute of Economic History.
    2. Albers, Thilo & Uebele, Martin, 2015. "The global impact of the great depression," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64491, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Barry Eichengreen, 2013. "International Policy Coordination: The Long View," NBER Chapters,in: Globalization in an Age of Crisis: Multilateral Economic Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century, pages 43-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General
    • F50 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - General
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-


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