The UN and the Post-War Global Order: Bretton Woods in Perspective

The UN and the Post-War Global Order: Bretton Woods in Perspective

Roosevelt Study Center
Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, The Netherlands
From - Until
17.09.2014 - 19.09.2014
Scott-Smith, Giles

2014 will mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Monetary and Financial conference, held at the Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1944. The conference, which involved 730 delegates from all of the 44 nations gathered under the United Nations banner at that time, laid out the basic rules and regulations for the post-war world economy. Out of the conference came the plans and ambitions for the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade.

This conference will achieve two purposes: Firstly, it will bring together scholars who have examined the roots and background of the Bretton Woods conference, the questions that it dealt with and the solutions it proposed. Secondly, it will gather together perspectives on the enduring legacy of Bretton Woods in the post war period as a central element in US global influence and power.

Most of the literature on Bretton Woods has focused on the two key players in the negotiations: Harry Dexter White of the United States and John Maynard Keynes of Great Britain. It is the intention to expand the scope by including papers on the standpoints, approaches, and contacts of other nations, and the role of the private sector.

Paper proposals on the following topics are welcome:
1) the background: How were the Bretton Woods negotiations formed by the Depression-hit 1930s and the experience of the League of Nations?
2) Britain and America: Recent research on the American and British delegations to Bretton Woods. To what extent should we look beyond White and Keynes?
3) the multilateral dimension: Alongside Britain and the United States, 42 other nations were present at the Bretton Woods negotiations. The Latin Americans were particularly important. How did these other delegations approach the issue of post-war economic planning? How did they convey their interests? What was their attitude towards the dominance of the United States and Great Britain over who would determine the outline of the postwar world?
4) the Soviet Dimension: The Soviet Union participated in the Bretton Woods discussions, and were particularly involved on the quota issue. What do we know of broader Soviet views on the US-UK international economic system that was being planned? To what extent did Bretton Woods point to possible post-war cooperation or conflict?
5) the private sector: The corporate and banking sectors had a major stake in the outcome of the Bretton Woods negotiations. Who were the main private protagonists associated with the negotiations? How should we assess their influence?
6) the Bretton Woods Legacy: The negotiations set the basis for US global financial power in the post-war world. How should we assess this legacy? In what ways did the Nixon period change that legacy? What lessons does Bretton Woods give us for the international political economy of today?

The deadline for paper (and panel) proposals is 31 January 2014.

Please send all proposals to Giles Scott-Smith (RSC) at

This event is part of the 'UN at 70' project, jointly run by the RSC and the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, which examines the formation of the UN system during WW II and its lasting legacies.


Contact (announcement)

Giles Scott-Smith
Roosevelt Study Center

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