By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing

Original Bretton Woods Transcript Found

A pretty amazing discovery: an original transcript of the 1944 Bretton Woods economic conference has surfaced. Evidently, all accounts since the end of WWII have relied on second-hand sources and recollections, but an 800-page transcript of the summit that viewed the wreckage from the war and set the course for the postwar financial structure–when the World Bank and the IMF were set up–has now been found in the US Treasury Library. The transcript would be of tremendous value to historians and scholars in an annotated edition, and I’ve contacted the Daily Telegraph‘s business commentator Jeremy Warner who broke this story to see if he’d be interested in developing a book with me and the people who discovered the transcript.

In the attached black & white photo, US Treasury Secretary is seated on the right next to John Maynard Keynes. In his Daily Telegraph blog Warner has written about the discovery of the transcript and observes that:

“Those who have seen it say it is hard to point to any outright revelation about the talks, in which for Britain, the economist John Maynard Keynes was a leading player. But the level of intellectual debate is said to have been extraordinarily impressive, with exactly the same arguments as to voting rights and undue Western influence at the IMF and World Bank as exist today. The Indian delagation is said to have been particularly outspoken, despite the fact that India was still then a colony of the UK. It was at Bretton Woods that Keynes identified one of the key problems at the heart of international economics – that imbalances in trade are next to impossible to resolve in a fixed exchange rate system without surplus countries accepting that they have as much of an obligation to do something about them as the offending deficit countries. As the eurozone is demonstrating all over again, the lessons have plainly not be learned.”

I’ve been fascinated by the conference for a long time, not least because it was held at the majestic Mt. Washington Hotel, near where I went to college in New Hampshire, at Franconia College. Bretton Woods is an alternate name for the hotel, and the moniker has also always been used to describe the historic conference. Useful histories of the hotel and the conference can be found here and here.