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 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 more 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.
Benn Steil is senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. His previous book, Money, Markets, and Sovereignty, was awarded the 2010 Hayek Book Prize.
Acknowledgments ix Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: The World Comes to the White Mountains 9 Chapter 3: The Improbable Rise of Harry White 17 Chapter 4: Maynard Keynes and the Monetary Menace 61 Chapter 5: "The Most Unsordid Act" 99 Chapter 6: The Best-Laid Plans of White and Keynes 125 Chapter 7: Whitewash 155 Chapter 8: History Is Made 201 Chapter 9: Begging Like Fala 251 Chapter 10: Out with the Old Order, In with the New 293 Chapter 11: Epilogue 330 Appendix 1: Harry Dexter White Manuscript Photos 349 Appendix 2: Statement of Harry S. Truman on Harry Dexter White, 1953 351 Cast of Characters 355 Notes 371 References 407 Index 427