Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Kindleberger and the rise of the Dollar System

Mehrling Perry, Boston University

Kindleberger's first and last academic appointment was at MIT starting in 1948, when he was already 38 years old and had been working in government service for 12 years, at the Fed, BIS, OSS, and State Department. A student of H. Parker Willis and James Angell at Columbia University during the international monetary breakdown after 1933, he continued his monetary education with John Williams and Alvin Hansen at the Fed during the abortive attempt to put the system back together on the lines of the Tripartite Agreement of 1936, which ended instead in War and then establishment of the dollar system at Bretton Woods. Kindleberger's academic career subsequently tracks the rise of the dollar system, its metamorphosis in the 1970s after the collapse of Bretton Woods, and re-establishment in 1985 with the Plaza Accord. Known today mostly for his post-retirement career as an economic historian, Kindleberger is more fully appreciated as a monetary economist in the American institutionalist tradition.

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Keywords: Kindleberger, international money