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The Bretton Woods Conference: History And Legacy

Matthew Simoneau

Signed in New Hampshire seventy years ago this summer, the Bretton Woods Agreement established the U.S. dollar as the new standard for global trade. We’ll look at what changes this agreement made to the global trade system, some of the personalities behind it, and its legacy extending to the present day.



  • Planet Money's show about Bretton Woods: "It came down to two different plans put forward by two very different men. One was the most famous economist in the world. A British aristocrat. The other was an American that no one remembers. But it was the American that won the day and put the U.S. dollar right in the middle of world trade."
  • Matt Slaughter's co-written blog post about the Bretton Woods anniversary: "How does today’s stewardship of the global economy compare to that of 1944? Yes, the diplomatic answer would be, “Not well at all.” Bretton Woods was characterized by creative, collaborative, long-term thinking. As we have written here and there in recent months, today’s global economy is in many ways hobbled by stale, partisan, short-term thinking."
  • Benn Steil's editorial about the significance of Bretton Woods: "Contrary to popular belief, the Bretton Woods agreements were not formulated through multilateral discussion in a quaint New England town. They were negotiated before the conference over two years of contentious, self-interested negotiations between the two nations critical to global monetary and financial stability: the U.S., the world's largest creditor, and the U.K., its largest debtor."
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