Britain, America and Rearmament in the 1930s: The Cost of by Christopher Price (auth.)

By Christopher Price (auth.)

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A new emphasis on stimulating the domestic economy was underpinned by a determination to provide consistently cheap credit. 5 This was the reverse of the gold standard mechanism which had maintained a stable currency by adjusting Bank Rate. The British economy was further reinforced in 1932 by the introduction of comprehensive protection for industry and agriculture in the Import Duties Act and the Horticultural Products Act, which introduced a global 10 per cent tariff on imports into the UK along with import quotas on agricultural products.

If this happened, the monetary authorities of gold standard countries would be deluged with demands for gold unconnected with the state of their own economies but which, according to gold standard theory, would have to be met by contraction of their money supplies to match the loss of gold and, hopefully, reverse the process. The inadequate supply of monetary gold was compounded by its maldistribution. The British knew that the United States had captured a sizeable proportion of the world’s gold during the war.

The sense of doom that accompanied sterling’s departure from gold dissipated with remarkable rapidity when immediate economic collapse failed to occur. R. 66 A month later, despite the uncertainties produced by a general election, the controller of finance and supply services at the Treasury, Sir Richard Hopkins, was able to tell MacDonald that during the campaign, ‘the pound had kept remarkably steady & on the whole surprisingly high’. 67 Sterling had stabilised with a 30 per cent devaluation against the dollar, ending the reserve drain and improving its competitiveness, a benefit not exclusively British but common to all sterling-based economies.

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