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The 1976 IMF crisis was a time of upheaval and uncertainty in Britain’s post-war economic fortunes. As the result of years of living beyond its means, the UK could no longer borrow from the capital markets to cover its financial deficits. There was no choice but to turn to the Washington-based IMF to avoid extreme economic pain and even default. Richard Roberts’ fast-paced account unveils the intricacies and intrigues of a watershed in British and international economic history – a chronicle displaying similarities to Britain’s predicament after the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union.
When Britain Went Bust: The 1976 IMF Crisis is published as a Kindle edition by OMFIF Press on 1 November. The print edition will be launched 8 December.
Praise for When Britain Went Bust
‘Professor Roberts has made an interesting and timely contribution to the literature on the 1976 sterling crisis. But he has done more – showing how it stemmed from the 1944 Bretton Woods agreements and the policies adopted on that basis.’
Sir Douglas Wass, Permanent Secretary of the Treasury (1974-83)
‘This book is remarkable. Was the Labour government response to the crisis a ‘breakthrough’ marking the departure from Keynes’ policies? The lasting lesson, still valid today, is that floating down one’s currency is never a lasting solution.’
Jacques de Larosière, Managing Director of the IMF (1978-87)
‘This excellent book is accurate and perceptive – a much needed, unmatched historical analysis. Roberts describes how Jim Callaghan presided over an exhaustive debate in Cabinet. Every avenue was explored before he sided with Denis Healey.’
Lord (David) Owen, Foreign Secretary (1977-79)
‘This was a new dimension of sterling crisis: a balance of payments crisis combined with Labour government tension and a trial of strength with the IMF. Roberts explains the mainsprings of the upheavals in this profound and stimulating book.’
Prof. Helmut Schlesinger, President, Deutsche Bundesbank (1991-93)
‘Richard Roberts is our foremost economic historian. His book should be compulsory reading for Treasury and Bank of England officials. But you do not have to be an economist to enjoy it: merely interested in why Britain is where it is.’
Lord (Nicholas) Macpherson, Permanent Secretary of the Treasury (2005-16)
‘One can always learn from history, which has a strange habit of repeating itself – though not quite the same way. Having lived through the sterling crisis of 1976, which is brilliantly described by Richard Roberts in this book, I can recommend that we all read it to cope with the 2016 Brexit collapse of the pound. It is not over yet.’
Lord (Meghnad) Desai, Professor Emeritus of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science
‘This book makes for fascinating reading. It covers problems that were the order of the day in the mid-1970s: unemployment, inflation, balooning deficits. These issues remain with us, so there are many lessons for dealing with present-day circumstances.’
Nout Wellink, President, Nederlandsche Bank (1997-2011)
‘A masterly analysis by an authoritative scholar. The book paints in fascinating detail the political handling of a difficult economic situation for the UK and the conditionality the country had to face.’
Prof. John (Iannis) Mourmouras, Senior Deputy Governor, Bank of Greece, former Deputy Greek Finance Minister
About the Author
Richard Roberts is Professor of Contemporary Financial History at King’s College London. An author of eight previous books on banking history and world finance, he is on the advisory boards of OMFIF and the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, a trustee of the Barings Archive Trust, and writes a monthly column for GlobalCapital.