The shift from sterling to the dollar, 1965–76: evidence from Australia and New Zealand

John Singleton, Catherine R. Schenk
Published Online:
13 Aug 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 68 Issue 4

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The management of foreign exchange reserves has recently attracted attention from both policy‐makers and historians. Historical research has focussed on the nineteenth century and the interwar period, with less attention to the strategies of smaller countries in the final transition from sterling to the dollar in the post‐1945 period. This article examines the evolution of reserve currency policy from the perspective of Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s and early 1970s. As in the 1930s, economic uncertainty and a shift in global economic power prompted changes in reserves strategy. Patterns of trade and debt and falling confidence in British economic policy prompted a move away from sterling, but the timing and extent of this transition were affected by the fragility of the sterling exchange rate, lack of alternative assets, and continued dependence on the London capital market. The choices for Australia and New Zealand were thus constrained, but they were able to leverage their position as holders of sterling to engage in agreements that provided an exchange rate guarantee for their sterling holdings and continued access to the London capital market. This mitigated the effect of the final global transition from sterling to the dollar while protecting their interests.

© 2015 The Authors. The Economic History Review published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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