International historical symposium, Banque de France, Paris, 13 and 14 November 2014
Scientific coordination: O. Feiertag and M. Margairaz
World War I was a major turning point in the history of central banks, as in the world history of economies and societies.
It radically altered the place and the role of national banks of issue - as they were still called before 1914 - within States and monetary and financial systems. It was a major milestone in the historical emergence of actual central banks.
Indeed, this total war affected central banks, both in belligerent countries and - to an extent that remains to be clarified - in neutral countries, through three major historical phenomena:
- The conditions for financing the war, through direct advances from the issuing bank to the Treasury, through its participation in the investment of government securities or through its increased involvement in the direct or indirect financing of the economy.
- The terms of banknote and coin issuance and more generally money creation, under the triple effect of the sharp rise in money supply, the increase in the number of small denominations and the growth in cashless payments (transfers and cheques) .
- The nationalisation of international settlements: foreign exchange controls and "policy", negotiation of international loans, emergence of international monetary cooperation.
The symposium will focus on examining the historical conditions of this transformation: how did World War I manage to deeply transform the different issuing banks - both in belligerent countries and neutral countries - accelerating their transformation into proper central banks? And conversely, we will also ask ourselves to what extent central banks were actually involved in the war and may have weighed, in one way or another, on the development of the conflict. The period under review spans the actual war from 1914 to 1918, but also takes into account the events that preceded and often prompted central banks’ entry into war as well as the immediate consequences of the war for central banks, at least up until the Brussels Conference of 1920.
This issue may be broken down into four main research directions:
- 1. To what extent did the war change the place and the tasks of issuing banks within governmental structures, and in particular vis-à-vis national treasuries?
- 2. How has the role of central banks evolved within monetary and financial systems, in particular in relation to commercial banks? What effect has this had on the organisation and governance of central banks themselves?
- 3. How did the war contribute to the further internationalisation of central bank activities, in particular through the development of new forms of international monetary and financial cooperation?
- 4. To what extent did the war contribute to renewing the central banking doctrine and standards and, beyond that, monetary and financial theory?
The proposed contributions should endeavor to take into account some of the points raised above, on the basis of the existing literature and of original historical sources, in particular primary and / or published archives.
Working languages: French and English
Contribution proposals (title of the contribution, 15-line presentation including a mention of the sources considered, short CV) should be sent by 30 September 2013 to:
The scientific council of the Mission historique of the Banque de France will announce the results of the scientific assessment of the proposed contributions on 30 October 2013.
The selected contributors shall agree to provide by 15 September 2014 the text of their speech of approximately 40,000 characters including spaces, in French or English.
The Mission historique of the Banque de France shall bear contributors’ travel costs to the symposium in Paris and their accommodation costs for the length of the symposium.
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