The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order

The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order

Benn Steil / Jul 18, 2019

The Battle of Bretton Woods John Maynard Keynes Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order When turmoil strikes world monetary and financial markets leaders invariably call for a new Bretton Woods to prevent catastrophic economic disorder and defuse political conflict The name of the remot

  • Title: The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order
  • Author: Benn Steil
  • ISBN: 9781400846573
  • Page: 335
  • Format: ebook
  • When turmoil strikes world monetary and financial markets, leaders invariably call for a new Bretton Woods to prevent catastrophic economic disorder and defuse political conflict The name of the remote New Hampshire town where representatives of forty four nations gathered in July 1944, in the midst of the century s second great war, has become shorthand for enlightenedWhen turmoil strikes world monetary and financial markets, leaders invariably call for a new Bretton Woods to prevent catastrophic economic disorder and defuse political conflict The name of the remote New Hampshire town where representatives of forty four nations gathered in July 1944, in the midst of the century s second great war, has become shorthand for enlightened globalization The actual story surrounding the historic Bretton Woods accords, however, is full of startling drama, intrigue, and rivalry, which are vividly brought to life in Benn Steil s epic account.Upending the conventional wisdom that Bretton Woods was the product of an amiable Anglo American collaboration, Steil shows that it was in reality part of a much ambitious geopolitical agenda hatched within President Franklin D Roosevelt s Treasury and aimed at eliminating Britain as an economic and political rival At the heart of the drama were the antipodal characters of John Maynard Keynes, the renowned and revolutionary British economist, and Harry Dexter White, the dogged, self made American technocrat Bringing to bear new and striking archival evidence, Steil offers the most compelling portrait yet of the complex and controversial figure of White the architect of the dollar s privileged place in the Bretton Woods monetary system, who also, very privately, admired Soviet economic planning and engaged in clandestine communications with Soviet intelligence officials and agents over many years.A remarkably deft work of storytelling that reveals how the blueprint for the postwar economic order was actually drawn, The Battle of Bretton Woods is destined to become a classic of economic and political history.

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    1. By Martin HutchinsonBenn Steil calls his study “The Battle of Bretton Woods” but in reality the 1944 conference which created a new financial system after World War Two was more of a massacre of British interests by the U.S. Treasury’s Harry Dexter White.Steil is a senior fellow at the American think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, and a well-known writer on financial topics. He tells the story as personal, political and economic. John Maynard Keynes, the principal British negotiat [...]


    2. The “Battle of Bretton Woods” by Benn Steil is a comprehensive account of the multi-nation negotiations that led to the creation of the post-WWII capitalist framework for Western nations. The primary actors in this drama were Britain and the U.S.A the latter of which imposed terms as the world’s new creditor nation. Essentially, Britain ran itself broke trying to maintain her empire during and immediately following WWI. Throughout the ordeal, Britain borrowed U.S. funds and gave a lot of t [...]


    3. Books about Keynes are generally interesting and this one is no exception. This book is attempting to pursue many objectives, however, and after a while I was marveling at the balancing.The book is first of all a history of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference in New Hampshire, where the outlines of the post WWII monetary system was agreed on. Such a conference brings together in one fell swoop macroeconomics and international currency and trade flows. Both of these areas are sufficiently wooly to [...]


    4. If Harry Dexter White was not tainted by the spying incidents, he could have gone down as the person deserving most credit for engineering the US dominance in the global financial system today. Bretton Woods is perhaps the single biggest path-defining economic event of history, and this book beautifully lays bare what was won and lost at this conference.If White's feats are unsung - let's say because of his nefarious spying activities - it is quite astonishing that Keynes is so little tarnished [...]


    5. Ben Steil's book is an exciting, accurate and insightful examination of the Bretton Woods monetary system treaty. An unprecedented feat, the treaty truly established a New World Order by cementing the dollar's status as a reserve currency. The story behind the making of the new system is an exciting tale with two remarkable heroes: Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes. Keynes immediately spring to mind whenever Bretton Woods is mentioned, but it was Harry Dexter White that orchestrated the [...]


    6. I can't say that I got much out of this book. It wasn't clear to me exactly where the author was trying to go with it. It certainly covers too much ground to be just a history of Bretton Woods. At times it seems like a book about Harry Dexter White, but it also ranges pretty far away from that subject at times. My feeling is that the book was basically supposed to be about HDW, but with a lot of Keynes and other stuff thrown in to make it seem more exciting. Neither HDW nor any other player is p [...]


    7. Intriguing book about the 1944 Bretton Woods conference where the IMF and World Bank were established. The UK economist-diplomat J.M. Keynes and US bureaucrat-diplomat H.D. White are profiled in separate chapters highlighting White's moonlighting as a Soviet spy and Keynes' big ideas for a better international monetary system, including a new global currency, the bancor.Instead, White was able to hijack the conference through controlled disorder in committees, forcing the American position of eq [...]


    8. Steil is meticulous, and no one has equaled his factual presentation of the events leading up to, during and following Bretton Woods. I don't agree with all his analysis. For example, it was obvious to everyone that the Americans would use the conference to make the dollar the world's researve currency, so there's no reason to treat White like he had a secret agenda. And Morgenthau was not the uninterested buffoon that Steil presents here. But all in all, this is a tremendous and welcome piece o [...]


    9. The Battle of Bretton Woods sets forth in smooth prose and concise detail an authoritative narrative of the who-what-when-why of the great monetary conference of some 70 years ago. It is jam-packed with heady discussions of balance of payments, exchange rates, supranational currency, monetary reform, and tariffs (a href="weeklystandard/article more


    10. Ben Steil’s ‘The Battle of Bretton Woods’ tells the story of British imperial twilight where the US wrested power from the rusting empire through accumulated WWII allied obligations. American policymakers used British and European liabilities as leverage to negotiate better trade access into formerly protected imperial markets and replace the pound with the USD as the dominant global currency. Stylistically, Steil strikes a good balance between monetary policy detail and the personalities [...]


    11. The book summarizes the life of Keynes and White and the chronology of all the meetings that led to the construction of a new architecture of the international monetary and financial system (IMFS). There are a couple of highlights in this book. It contains a fine description of the White's and the Keynes' plans for the IMFS. Since White plan ended up been the one adopted, it is interesting to learn what was the framework proposed by Keynes. The most interesting thing is the conception that both [...]


    12. I've yet to read a more depressing book about economics and finance, and I did a BBA, so that says something about what I'm comparing it to. I picked this up thinking it was going to be a treatise on the ripple effects of some medieval battle, and imagine my surprise when Keynes and White and the World Wars were thrown in my face.This book describes Great Man History at its worst, when megalomaniac and fanatic traitor bumped heads and built an economic fairy story whose crash still has reverbera [...]


    13. Fascinating stuff - insights into FDR, Keynes, White, and others.And reinforces my opinion that WWI just basically caused everything.


    14. Well written accountIt furthered muy understanding of macroeconomics. And it reads quite fast for a book which is quite weighty and deals in complex matters.


    15. There's been a fair amount of praise for and criticism of this book. Both reactions have concerned themselves largely with Steil's political stances (he's an unreconstructed goldbug) and some of his more strident claims (that Harry Dexter White was a significant impetus in Japan attacking Pearl Harbor). To my eye, these issues are secondary. The book largely treads on familiar ground, but it does so in a way that makes the journey seem fresh, original and even entertaining. The exhausting negoti [...]


    16. I started the book with a hope & expectations of deep analytical incentive insights, so i was somewhat disappointed when the book turned out to take more of the familiar journalistic/political/historian type approach, with a lot of talk about individuals and their tempers, their personal agendas and character getting lost in details. Still, the subject matter is so interesting and so rarely treated that I was determined to plow through the boring parts fishing for truths behind the curtains. [...]


    17. An extremely well-researched account of not only the negotiations at Bretton Woods, but also of the circumstances leading up to the historic meeting, and its aftermath. I found the book quite an intense, yet absorbing read. The amount of detail provided on each page is immense and enjoyable at the same time. The short reference of characters and names at the end of the book (aside from the index) really helped in keeping track of the narrative throughout the book. The only minus points are the s [...]


    18. Ho-hum. I first gave this book three stars, I think because I wanted to have enjoyed it more than I actually did. The premise is interesting enough--the untold stories about the wrangling behind the scenes that led to the international monetary order established at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944. Bretton Woods was one of the most important international meetings of the 20th century, responsible for creating the IMF and the World Bank and establishing the dollar as the international currenc [...]


    19. Very detailed portrait of the two rivals (HD White and JM Keynes) who had the largest impact on international monetary system established after World War 2; including a frank look at their personal eccentricities and the interests they sought to promote and sustainK, who never acquired any formal qualification in economics, was frequently led by political considerations to repudiate formerly strongly held positions. So it is not surprising that many today disagree about what JMK really stood for [...]


    20. The Battle of Bretton Woods is a book that I picked up because I would occasionally see 'Bretton Woods' mentioned in books that I read. I had an idea that it had to deal with the post-WWII economic framework directed by the United States but that is about all I really knew about it. I typically avoid books on economics but I knew that Bretton Woods had a profound impact on history, so I decided to do my best to understand it. In a nut shell, Bretton Woods was an economic conference held in Brett [...]


    21. Economic history of the momentous 1944 meeting that structured the modern international financial market. In a way, this is the sequel to Ahamed's book Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, as the major countries attempted to fight a World War on economies shaken by the depression and 1929 crash. Steil is good at explaining the economic process to laymen, and includes juicy details about the participants in the conference (including the problem that a local mountain codger took shot [...]


    22. A book for school. The structure is kind of meandering: it sets up Keynes and White as the two big figures of the Bretton Woods conference, talks about their dueling proposals for what eventually became the IMF, and then admits that Keynes had basically no pull since Britain was so much more drained from World War II than the US was. So there are details of negotiations, but it's mostly about how White intentionally set up the conference to make sure he had control over the relevant committees. [...]


    23. When I picked up this book I was looking for background on Keynes's plan for a Clearing Union. It is there, but the author's perspective is consistently from the American side and he is always looking for evidence that Keynes was simply arguing for British geopolitical advantage rather than seeing his plan as potentially preventing the bizarre condition in which we now find ourselves of having the global hegemon the world's largest debtor. The author seems to have really wanted to write a spy th [...]


    24. This book was very interesting and informational. I never knew that the lead negotiator at Bretton Woods for the United States was a communist spy for the Soviet Union. I also didn't know that Bretton Woods was a mountain resort in New Hampshire. I also didn't know nearly as much about Keynes as I do know.It was an interesting time period, and I think the author does an excellent job of comparing the status of the United States in the 40's (an international creditor with huge trade surplus) to o [...]


    25. This book provides a lot of details on the Bretton Woods conference. In particular it focuses on the two main players: Harry Dexter White of the US and John Maynard Keynes of England. Much time is spent on whether White was a communist. There are memo-by-memo recountings of the formulations of US and British positions. I am sure the work is extremely well researched, but just too much detail on the events for me. I was more interested in the impact of the conference and how the two creations fro [...]


    26. Steil is a fantastic writer and has done an incredible amount of research to compile this book (very impressive appendix). He takes time to really outline the personalities involved and the political intrigues going on at the time. He's not afraid to draw conclusions and, while a bit more reserved on out-and-out calling H. White a spy (he basically does), I thought his outlining of Keynes' priorities (namely his own legacy) to be most shocking (and thus interesting). The book was only 350 pages [...]


    27. A part of history you rarely get a look at. Story of how the U.S as the largest creditor nation during and after World War II remade the international economic rules of the road, stripped England of it's empire special trading agreements, and formed the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Excellent look into the two main opponents lives, beliefs and confrontations on economic matters that changed the whole world on how to conduct international trade and maintain supportable payment b [...]


    28. This topic and also the work of Sir J. M. Keynes and his 'General Theory on Interest, Inflation and Unemployment' as well as his 'Treatise on Money' should be read by everyone, imho.This is one of the topics on which I read extensively for my PhD work, but then was forced to cut out of my thesis when it was accepted only as an MPhil rather than doctoral thesis. :-(ShiraDest,26.10.12015 HE


    29. If you've read a few basic economics books, such as Freakonomics and enjoy it, you might enjoy this. It is a good analytical history of 2 most important figures who influenced the monetary policies in last century. Some of their ideas are still prevalent, even if not accepted as right all the time. This helps you gain a better perspective on politics of money and economics on macro-economics level.


    30. Great story of how a now defunct global currency regime was constructed. Wonderful anecdotes and clear explanation of the issues and how they relate to today's monetary problems. The whole thing about one of the US architects' spying for the Soviet Union is entertaining and intriguing too but at the end I wasn't convinced that it made him do anything that differently when it came to the structure of the bretton woods monetary system.


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