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Midas, transmuting all, into paper : The Bank of England and the Banque de France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

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  • Chadha, Jagjit S.
  • Newby, Elisa

Abstract

This 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. JEL Classification: C61, E31, E4, E5, N13 Keywords: Monetary Orthodoxy, Suspension of Convertibility, War Finance

Suggested Citation

  • Chadha, Jagjit S. & Newby, Elisa, 2013. "Midas, transmuting all, into paper : The Bank of England and the Banque de France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars," Research Discussion Papers 20/2013, Bank of Finland.
  • Handle: RePEc:bof:bofrdp:2013_020
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    Cited by:

    1. P.Antipa, 2014. "How Fiscal Policy Affects the Price Level: Britain’s First Experience with Paper Money," Working papers 525, Banque de France.
    2. Pamfili Antipa & Christophe Chamley, 2019. "Regimes of Fiscal and Monetary Policy in England during the French Wars (1793-1821)," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-327, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    3. Crowley, Patrick M. & Garcia, Enrique & Quah Chee-Heong, 2013. "Is Europe growing together or growing apart?," Research Discussion Papers 33/2013, Bank of Finland.
    4. Antipa, P., 2013. "Fiscal Sustainability and the Value of Money: Lessons from the British Paper Pound, 1797-1821," Working papers 466, Banque de France.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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