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Financial Vergangenheitsbewältigung: The 1953 London Debt Agreement

  • Timothy W. Guinnane


    (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

The 1953 London Debt Agreement settled Germany's debts from the period between the two world wars, and allowed the country to re-establish its role in international capital markets. The Agreement wrote-down the overall debt by about 50 percent and gave the debtors a much longer period to repay. One interesting clause in the Agreement allowed Germany to postpone some payments until such time as re-unification. The Agreement reflects a subtle and responsible understanding of the problems associated with the reparations and debt crises of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as fears about the moral hazard problems that would arise with making any part of the Agreement contingent on events Germany could influence. Recent advocates of third-world debt relief have held up the London Debt Agreement of 1953 as a precedent for debt relief for poor countries today. That argument reflects a misunderstanding of the historical circumstances of the early 1950s, as well as the economic principles reflected in the Agreement.

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Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 880.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:880
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  1. Serkan Arslanalp & Peter Blair Henry, 2006. "Debt Relief," NBER Working Papers 12187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Arslanalp, Serkan & Henry, Peter B., 2006. "Debt Relief," Research Papers 1931, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  2. H. J. Dernburg, 1953. "Some Basic Aspects Of The German Debt Settlement," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 8(3), pages 298-318, 09.
  3. English, William B, 1996. "Understanding the Costs of Sovereign Default: American State Debts in the 1840's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 259-75, March.
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