The Bretton Woods Transcripts
Edited by Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg
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The Bretton Woods Transcripts, edited by Center for Financial
Stability (CFS) Senior Fellow Kurt Schuler and CFS Research Associate
Andrew Rosenberg, offer the reader a front row seat at the conference
that has shaped the international monetary system for nearly 70 years. The
Bretton Woods Transcripts were never intended for publication, and
give an inside perspective of what participants at this major
international gathering said behind closed doors.
The Transcripts reveal an untold story from World War II, as well as
the vision of luminaries such as John Maynard Keynes, future
presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders. Despite a war
still waging in 1944, delegates from 44 nations worked tirelessly in
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to construct a financial system that
would promote growth, minimize global imbalances, and foster
stability. Show More
Schuler and Rosenberg spent more than a year carefully and skillfully
editing never before published transcripts as well as creating
summaries of meetings and participants that established the
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and post World War II
international financial system. Schuler found the transcripts while browsing in a section of uncatalogued material in the library of the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Bretton Woods conference began a new era in international economic
cooperation that continues today.
The Bretton Woods Transcripts is the first book issued by the Center for Financial Stability as a publisher. Other CFS experts have published books with leading academic and commercial presses. We saw an opportunity to offer an important book at a much lower price than is usual for works of such scholarship, and to innovatively use the possibilities of electronic publishing to make available a wealth of supplementary material in companion files available elsewhere on this site.
Quotes from The Bretton Woods Transcripts
On international economic cooperation…
|Harry Dexter White (left), chief U.S. negotiator of the Bretton Woods
agreements, and John Maynard Keynes, chief British negotiator, at the
first meeting of the IMF and World Bank governors in 1946.
Fred Vinson (U.S. delegate, future Supreme Court chief justice): We are met here in Bretton Woods in an experimental test, probably the first time in the history of the world, that forty-four nations have convened seeking to solve difficult economic problems. We fight together on sodden battlefields. We sail together on the majestic blue. We fly together in the ethereal sky. The test of this conference is whether we can walk together, solve our economic problems, down the road to peace as we today march to victory. Sometimes [certain] problems seem to be most important on a particular day. Some folks think that the problems of the world were made to be solved in a day or in one conference. That can’t be. We must have cooperation, collaboration; utilize the machinery, the instrumentalities, that have been set up to provide succor to those who are hungry and ill; to set up, establish instrumentalities that will stabilize or tend toward stabilization of economies of our world.
(Commission I, seventh meeting)
Show More Quotes
On the nature of the IMF…
Ansel Luxford (United States): You have a question here, too, of an international body that has both political and economic phases. In other words, this document is an attempt to marry, to mingle and to blend the political aspects of this agency with the practical business aspects of the agency, the economic aspects. Institutions in the past have been established on more or less completely commercial lines. Others have been established on completely political lines. This whole document is an attempt to blend those two concepts.
(Commission I, Committee 3, third meeting)
On the role of origin of the U.S. dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” as a reserve currency…
Unidentified U.S. delegate: Mr. Chairman, it might be possible to give a definition of gold convertible exchange which would be satisfactory to everyone here, but it would involve a long discussion. On the practical side, there seems to be no difference of opinion, and it is possible for the monetary authorities of other countries to purchase gold freely in the United States for dollars. There are a number of other currencies which can be used to purchase dollars without restriction, and these dollars in turn [can be] used to purchase gold. The definition of gold convertible currency might include such currencies, but the practical importance of holdings of the countries represented here is so small that it has been felt it would be easier for this purpose to regard the United States dollar as what was intended when we speak of gold convertible exchange.
(Commission I, fourth meeting)
On the IMF’s gathering of statistics…
John Maynard Keynes: We, like you, are great believers in the beneficent influence of knowledge on these problems. There is hardly any greater service the Fund can do than provide up-to-date barometers of the monetary problems of the world. We hope that the very greatest importance will be given to the statistical branch of the Fund and that they will be encouraged to make reports [for] the instruction and benefit [of] all of us on a scale that has never been possible heretofore.
(Commission I, third meeting)
Praise for The Bretton Woods Transcripts
“Schuler, along with his coeditor, Andrew Rosenberg, has done a superb job in putting this treasure trove in shape for publication. Even though there have been thousands and thousands of pages written about the Bretton Woods Conference, nothing beats the transcripts for a first-hand feel of what transpired.”
From the preface by Jacques de Larosière, Managing Director of the IMF from 1978-1987, and Steve H. Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
“Kurt Schuler, Andrew Rosenberg and the Center for Financial Stability
deserve our thanks and congratulations for having unearthed and then
nicely reproduced and edited the original Bretton Woods transcripts.
This is truly a treasure trove for historians, showing exactly who
said what to whom, when and why at that iconic Conference.”
Charles Goodhart, Financial Markets Group, London School of
Economics; Former Chief Advisor, Bank of England
“The global economy is stuck with low growth rates and over indebtedness in very many leading countries today. The two issues - growth and fiscal/private debt overhangs - are the classical scopes
of work of the International Monetary Fund; and we see that in this epoch the global institution named, has been relegated only to a back seat, while the so called ‘Troika’ does most of the diagnosis and
most of the decision-making.
“Thus, what better than to counter now with a primary testimony of how the founding fathers of the IMF and the World Bank discussed, convened, negotiated and came about to a broad consensus at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in order to create an institutionality with a clear technical, financial, and macro mandate?”
Eduardo Aninat, Former Deputy Managing Director, IMF; Former Finance Minister of Chile; Present, Director General, UNIAPAC Foundation, Paris
“Bretton Woods set the standard for all future international economic conferences. These transcripts are a precious contribution to
historical study and more importantly an inspiration for those charged
with shaping the future.”
Lawrence H. Summers, Former Secretary, US Treasury; Charles W. Eliot
University Professor of Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School,
Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government
“A fascinating and useful new e-book, The Bretton Woods Transcripts,
has just been published by the Center for Financial Stability (CFS).
While an 822 page ‘transcript’ might turn off all but the most serious
monetary scholars, Kurt Schuler, who discovered the transcripts in the
Treasury, and his coeditor Andrew Rosenberg have done a remarkable job
of making the book user friendly. Their commentary is fascinating in
its own right. Moreover, standard search engines allow one to easily
scan through the document looking for topics or participants.
“In reading through various passages, I was most impressed by the
foresight of the participants at the conference and their spirit of
international cooperation, as they hammered out the agreements.”
John B. Taylor, Former Under Secretary, US Treasury; Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University; and George P. Shultz Senior Fellow and Chair of Working Group on Economic Policy, Hoover Institution
“Everyone thinks they know what happened at Bretton Woods, but what
they know has been filtered by generations of historical accounts. By
publishing the Bretton Woods transcripts, Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg provide the unfiltered version. International monetary
history will never be the same.”
Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of
Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
“Historical memory, as we well know, can often fade, becoming
encrusted with distortions and misperceptions. With the publication
of these transcripts, Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg have done us
all a lasting service. Economists and historians will gain fresh
insight into what really happened and what was really intended at
Bretton Woods. Diplomats and policy makers can gain valuable lessons
about how to successfully organize and manage a complex international
Benjamin J. Cohen, Louis G. Lancaster Professor of International
Political Economy, University of California, Santa Barbara
If you would like to contribute information or have questions about Bretton Woods, please contact Kurt Schuler, firstname.lastname@example.org.