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Still tied by golden fetters: the global response to the US recession of 1937–19381

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2012

Scott Urban
University of Oxford,
Tobias Straumann
University of Zurich,


The US recession of 1937–8 is one of the deepest on record. Yet it did not produce a global depression – quite unlike 1930. According to the standard view, this reflected an unfettering of central banking after the collapse of the international gold standard circa 1931. We challenge this view. While Germany and a couple of Central and Eastern European countries were sheltered by binding exchange controls, most countries were still constrained by their golden fetters, as our new exchange rate regime classification suggests. The underlying policy regime was surprisingly similar to that of the 1929–30 downturn. What mattered was a quick reversal in US policy in 1938 and, for many countries, a more plentiful stock of international reserves.

Copyright © European Association for Banking and Financial History e.V. 2012

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