In the wake of the First World War, Winston Churchill promised to restore the ancient English gold standard—and thus. Britain's greatness. It proved to be one of the most momentous—and ill-advised—decisions of the 20th Century. From the vicious peace settlement at Versailles to the Great Depression, the gold standard was central to the worst disasters of the time. Economically, it exacerbated the difficulties of repairing economies shattered by war. Politically, it set countries at odds as each endeavoured to amass gold, sowing the seeds of further strife.
What drove this diabolical crusade? The traditional view is that this movement followed inevitably from the dictates of material interests and deep structural forces. England's Cross of Gold challenges this account, offering an entirely new look at the struggles among elites in London to define, and redefine, the gold standard—from the first discussions during the War; through the titanic clash between Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill, and world-famous economist, John Maynard Keynes; to the final, ill-fated implementation of the "new gold standard." Grounded in extensive archival research–including much previously neglected material–this book reveals that these events turned crucially on the beliefs of a handful of pivotal policymakers. It recasts the legends of Churchill, Keynes, and their collision. And it shows that the gold standard itself was a metaphysical abstraction rooted more in mythology than concrete material reality.
James Ashley Morrison is an Associate Professor (effective 1 August 2022) in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics & Political Science. He specialises in International Political Economy, where he has a particular interest in the influence of ideas and intellectuals on foreign economic policy. He has published on topics in economic history and the history of economic thought in the Anglophone tradition. His first book is entitled «England's Cross of Gold: Keynes, Churchill, and the Governance of Economic Beliefs» (Cornell University Press, 2021). More information can be found here."
The seminar starts at 11:15 and ends at 13:00.