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The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2010

Barry Eichengreen*
Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail:
Douglas A. Irwin*
Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755. E-mail:


The Great Depression was marked by a severe outbreak of protectionist trade policies. But contrary to the presumption that all countries scrambled to raise trade barriers, there was substantial cross-country variation in the movement to protectionism. Specifically, countries that remained on the gold standard resorted to tariffs, import quotas, and exchange controls to a greater extent than countries that went off gold. Just as the gold standard constraint on monetary policy is critical to understanding macroeconomic developments in this period, exchange rate policies help explain changes in trade policy.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 2010

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