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Negotiating Credibility: Britain and the International Monetary Fund, 1956–1976

  • BEN CLIFT (a1) and JIM TOMLINSON (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 November 2008

For twenty years before the famous crisis of 1976 Britain was a regular borrower from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Through this lending role, the Fund in these years played a key part in determining the credibility of British policies. Borrowing from the Fund meant that British policy had to be seen as conforming to certain norms, but these norms were always negotiable, albeit within shifting limits. This article uses archival material from London and Washington to examine these processes of negotiation, showing how far British policy was shaped by the desires of the IMF, and how far it was able to maintain autonomy in national economic policy.

Négocier la crédibilité? La Grande-Bretagne et le Fonds monétaire international de 1956 à 1976

Durant les vingt années qui précèdent la fameuse crise de 1976, la Grande-Bretagne a régulièrement emprunté de l'argent au Fonds monétaire international. En prêtant de l'argent, le Fonds participait à l'établissement de la crédibilité de la politique britannique. L'emprunt d'argent du Fonds signifiait en effet que la politique britannique devait se conformer à certaines normes dont les limites cependant sont perpétuellement renégociées. Cet article se base sur l'étude de matériel archivistique de Londres et Washington pour examiner ces processus de négociation. Il montre jusqu'à quel point la politique britannique s'adaptait aux exigences du Fonds monétaire international ainsi que les limites de l'autonomie de la politique économique britannique.

Verhandeln von Glaubwürdigkeit? Großbritannien und der Internationale Währungsfonds von 1956 bis 1976

Großbritannien lieh sich während den zwanzig Jahren vor der berüchtigten Krise von 1976 regelmäßig Geld vom Internationalen Währungsfonds. Dadurch spielte der Währungsfonds eine wichtige Rolle in der Festlegung der Glaubwürdigkeit der britischen Wirtschaftspolitik. Die britische Wirtschaftspolitik wurde passte sich somit gewissen Normen an, welche jedoch in einem gewissen Rahmen immer verhandelbar waren. Dieser Artikel stützt sich auf Archivquellen aus London und Washington, um aufzuzeigen, inwiefern die britische Politik von den Wünschen des Währungsfonds beeinflusst war und inwiefern es ihr möglich war, eine autonome Volkswirtschaftspolitik aufrechtzuerhalten.

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R. Toye , ‘The Attlee Government, the Imperial Preference System and the Creation of the GATT’, English Historical Review, 118 (2003), 912–39

R. Germain , The International Organization of Credit (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

E. Balls , ‘Open Macroeconomics in an Open Economy’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 45 (1998), 113–32

B. Clift and J. Tomlinson , ‘Credible Keynesianism? New Labour Macroeconomic Policy and the Political Economy of Coarse Tuning’, British Journal of Political Science, 37 (2007), 4769

M. Harmon , The British Labour Government and the 1976 IMF Crisis (London: Palgrave, 1997)

P. Burnham , ‘The Politicisation of Monetary Policy-Making in Post-War Britain’, British Politics, 2 (2007), 395419

A. Booth , ‘Inflation, Expectations and the Political Economy of Conservative Britain, 1951–1964’, Historical Journal, 43 (2000), 844

H. Pemberton , Policy Learning and British Governance in the 1960s (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004)

G. O'Hara , From Dreams to Disillusionment: Economic and Social Planning in the 1960s (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007)

J. Tomlinson , ‘Inventing “decline”: The Falling Behind of the British Economy in the Postwar Period’, Economic History Review, 49 (1996), 731–57

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Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
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