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The emergence of the Classical Gold Standard

Matthias Morys

No 7010, Working Papers from Economic History Society

Abstract: "This paper asks why the Classical Gold Standard (1870s - 1914) emerged: Why did the vast majority of countries tie their currencies to gold in the late 19th century, while there was only one country – the UK – on gold in 1850? The literature distinguishes a number of theories to explain why gold won over bimetallism and silver. We will show the pitfalls of these theories (macroeconomic theory, ideological theory, political economy of choice between gold and silver) and show that neither the early English lead in following gold nor the German shift to gold in 1873 were as important as conventional accounts have it. Similarly, we argue that the silver supply shock materializing in the early 1870s was only the nail in the coffin of silver and bimetallic standards. Instead, we focus on the impact of the 1850s gold supply shock (due to the immense gold discoveries in California and Australia) on the European monetary system. Studying monetary commissions in 13 European countries between 1861 and 1874, we show that the pan-European movement in favour of gold monometallism was motivated by three key factors: gold being available in sufficient quantities to actually contemplate the transition to gold monometallism (while silver had become scarce, at least in the bimetallic countries), widespread misgivings over the working of bimetallism and the fact that gold could encapsulate more value in the same volume than silver (i.e. coin convenience)."

JEL-codes: N00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2007-04
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (4)

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Working Paper: The emergence of the Classical Gold Standard (2012) Downloads
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