Introduction to the IMFObligations and Benefits of IMF Membership

Money Matters: An IMF Exhibit -- The Importance of Global Cooperation

Conflict and Cooperation (1871-1944)

Part 1 of 5


Conflict &
(1871 - 1944)

Destruction &

(1945 - 1958)
The System
in Crisis

(1959 - 1971)
the System

(1972 - 1981)
Debt &

(1981 - 1989)
Globalization and Integration
(1989 - 1999)

The Golden Era

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From the 1870s until World War I, the United Kingdom served as the leading financial and banking center of the world, while gold ruled as the monetary standard of all the major trading countries. Each country pegged its currency to gold at a constant and unchanging rate. The international gold standard system ushered in a period of unprecedented stability and prosperity - at least for the middle and upper classes in the industrial countries.


Gold and Stability

American Express Travelers Check


The gold standard provided monetary discipline. Because governments were required to convert domestic currency into gold on request, the amount of currency they could print was limited by the amount of gold in their reserves.

Exchange rates never varied in the classical gold system. This made exchanging money much easier for travelers. American Express even printed the exact amount of foreign currency exchange right on its traveler's cheques.


Industrial Revolution Image


Industrial Revolution

Technological advances in the nineteenth century produced more goods and created more efficient ways of transporting them across national borders. Governments increasingly recognized the need for easy and convenient currency convertibility. The United Kingdom, economic and financial leader of the world, had based its currency on gold since the early nineteenth century. In the 1870s, Germany and other major trading countries followed its lead and converted to the gold standard.

The Golden Era Meltdown Cost of the World War
Global Depression The End of the War is in Sight How Could Leaders Ensure a Future of Global Peace and Prosperity?