The Gold Standard

20 Jan, 2022 330 Economics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the system that flourished from 1870 when gold became dominant and more widely available, following gold rushes in California and Australia. Banknotes could be exchanged for gold at central banks, the coins in circulation could be gold (as with the sovereign in the image above, initially worth PS1), gold could be freely imported and exported, and many national currencies around the world were tied to gold and so to each other. The idea began in Britain, where sterling was seen as good as gold, and when other countries rushed to the Gold Standard the confidence in their currencies grew, and world trade took off and, for a century, gold was seen as a vital component of the world economy, supporting stability and confidence. The system came with constraints on government ability to respond to economic crises, though, and has been blamed for deepening and prolonging the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Catherine Schenk No other episodes
    Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Oxford
  • Helen Paul 8 episodes
    Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton
  • Matthias Morys No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Economic History at the University of York

Reading list

  • Money and Empire: The International Gold Standard, 1890-1914
    M. de Cecco (Blackwell, 1974) Google Books →
  • The Gold Standard in Theory and History
    Barry Eichengreen and Marc Flandreau (eds.) (Routledge, 1997) Google Books →
  • Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression 1919-1939
    Barry Eichengreen (Oxford University Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System
    Barry Eichengreen (Princeton University Press, 2019) Google Books →
  • European Monetary Unification and the International Gold Standard
    L. L. Einaudi (Oxford University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Glitter of Gold: France, Bimetallism, and the Emergence of the International Gold Standard, 1848-73
    Marc Flandreau (Oxford University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Anatomy of an International Monetary Order: The Classical Gold Standard, 1880-1914
    G.M. Gallarotti (Oxford University Press, 1995) Google Books →
  • Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy
    Jeffrey E. Garten (Amberley Publishing, 2021) Google Books →
  • La naissance et le developpement de l'etalon or. 1696-1922
    J. E. Mertens (Presses Universitaires de France, 1944) Google Books →
  • Silver and Gold: The Political Economy of International Monetary Conferences. 1867-1892
    S. P. Reti (Greenwood, 1998) Google Books →
  • International Economic Relations since 1945
    Catherine R. Schenk (Routledge, 2021) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m0013hh7

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Auto-category: 330.9 (Economic history of the world)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The century between 1870 and 1970 was the age of the gold standard, where currencies around the world were in some way tied to the price of gold.