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Did Nordic Countries Recognize the Gathering Storm of World War II? Evidence from the Bond Markets

  • Daniel Waldenström
  • Bruno S. Frey

This paper analyzes and compares different ways of assessing how people perceived impending threats of war in the past. Conventional Nordic historiography of World War II claims there were few, if any, people in the Nordic countries who perceived a significantly increased threat of war between 1938 and early 1940. At the same time, historical methods face problems when it comes to capturing the often tacitly held beliefs of a large number of people in the past. In this paper, we analyze these assessments by looking at sudden shifts in sovereign debt yields and spreads in the Nordic bond markets at that time. Our results suggest that Nordic contemporaries indeed perceived significant war risk increases around the time of major war-related geopolitical events. While these findings question some – but not all – of standard Nordic World War II historiography, they also demonstrate the value of analyzing historical market prices to reassess the often tacitly held views and opinions of large groups of people in the past.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 336.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:336
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  1. Brown, William O, Jr & Burdekin, Richard C K, 2002. "German Debt Traded in London during the Second World War: A British Perspective on Hitler," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 69(276), pages 655-69, November.
  2. Jushan Bai & Pierre Perron, 1998. "Estimating and Testing Linear Models with Multiple Structural Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(1), pages 47-78, January.
  3. Oosterlinck, Kim, 2003. "The bond market and the legitimacy of Vichy France," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 326-344, July.
  4. Roberto Rigobon & Brian Sack, 2003. "The effects of war risk on U.S. financial markets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2003-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Kristen L. Willard & Timothy W. Guinnane & Harvey S. Rosen, 1995. "Turning Points in the Civil War: Views from the Greenback Market," NBER Working Papers 5381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. repec:cup:jechis:v:60:y:2000:i:01:p:216-231_00 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Paye, Bradley S. & Timmermann, Allan, 2006. "Instability of return prediction models," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 274-315, June.
  8. Frey, Bruno S. & Kucher, Marcel, 2000. "History as Reflected in Capital Markets: The Case of World War II," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(02), pages 468-496, June.
  9. Niall Ferguson, 2006. "Political risk and the international bond market between the 1848 revolution and the outbreak of the First World War -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 59(1), pages 70-112, 02.
  10. repec:cup:jechis:v:60:y:2000:i:02:p:468-496_00 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Merrick Jr., John J., 2001. "Crisis dynamics of implied default recovery ratios: Evidence from Russia and Argentina," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1921-1939, October.
  12. Frey, Bruno S & Kucher, Marcel, 2001. "Wars and Markets: How Bond Values Reflect the Second World War," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(271), pages 317-333, August.
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