The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order

Jamie Martin writes:

When an ailing John Maynard Keynes travelled to the American South in March 1946, he was delighted by what he found. The ‘balmy air and bright azalean colour’ of Savannah offered a welcome reprieve from the cold and damp of London, he wrote on arriving, and the children in the streets were livelier company than the ‘irritable’ and ‘exceedingly tired’ citizens of postwar Britain. Keynes was in Savannah for the inaugural session of the board of governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, two institutions he had helped found at the Bretton Woods Conference of July 1944. He was desperate to persuade the Americans not to place the headquarters of the two institutions in Washington, where he feared they would function more as appendages of the American state than as truly international bodies, but their location in the American capital was all but a fait accompli, requiring only a handful of votes from the odd array of allies the US had assembled at the meeting. Keynes’s last effort to check the growth of American power had failed. He died six weeks later.

(LRB 21 November 2013)

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