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The Rise and Fall of the Dollar, or When Did the Dollar Replace Sterling as the Leading International Currency?

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  • Barry Eichengreen
  • Marc Flandreau

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Barry Eichengreen & Marc Flandreau, 2008. "The Rise and Fall of the Dollar, or When Did the Dollar Replace Sterling as the Leading International Currency?," NBER Working Papers 14154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14154
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bordo, Michael D., 2012. "Could the United States have had a better central bank? An historical counterfactual speculation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 597-607.
    2. Agnes Benassy-Quere & Jean Pisani-Ferry, 2011. "What International Monetary System for a Fast-Changing World Economy?," Book Chapters,in: Jack T. Boorman & André Icard (ed.), Reform of the International Monetary System: The Palais Royal Initiative, chapter 21, pages 255-298 Emerging Markets Forum.
    3. Lino Sau, 2015. "Do the International Monetary and Financial Systems Need More Than Short-Term Cosmetic Reforms?," International Journal of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 325-340, October.
    4. Samar Maziad & Joong S Kang, 2012. "RMB Internationalization; O+L5022nshore/Offshore Links," IMF Working Papers 12/133, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Scott Andrew Urban, 2009. "The Name of the Rose: Classifying 1930s Exchange-Rate Regimes," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _076, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. Pavel Trunin & Sergey Narkevich, 2013. "Prospects for the Russian Ruble to Become Regional Reserve Currency," Working Papers 118, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, revised 2015.
    7. Agnès Bénassy-Quéré & Jean Pisani-Ferry, 2011. "Quel système monétaire international pour une économie mondiale en mutation rapide ?," Working Papers 2011-04, CEPII research center.
    8. Narkevich, Siarhei & Trunin, Pavel, 2013. "Prospects for the Russian Ruble as a Regional Reserve Currency," Published Papers dok2, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
    9. Sergey Narkevich & Pavel Trunin, 2012. "Reserve Currencies: Factors of Evolution and their Role in the World Economy," Research Paper Series, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, issue 162P.
    10. Eichengreen, Barry & Irwin, Douglas A., 2010. "The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(04), pages 871-897, December.
    11. Arvind Subramanian, 2011. "Renminbi Rules: The Conditional Imminence of the Reserve Currency Transition," Working Paper Series WP11-14, Peterson Institute for International Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions

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