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The Bretton Woods Transcripts

Edited by Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg

BW 2014 | The Transcripts | Did You Know? | Documents and Memorabilia | Blog | The Project

The Bretton Woods Transcripts, edited by Center for Financial Stability (CFS) Senior Fellow Kurt Schuler and CFS Research Associate Andrew Rosenberg, offer the reader a front row seat at the conference that has shaped the international monetary system for nearly 70 years. The Bretton Woods Transcripts were never intended for publication, and give an inside perspective of what participants at this major international gathering said behind closed doors.

The Transcripts reveal an untold story from World War II, as well as the vision of luminaries such as John Maynard Keynes, future presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders. Despite a war still waging in 1944, delegates from 44 nations worked tirelessly in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to construct a financial system that would promote growth, minimize global imbalances, and foster stability. Show More

Quotes from The Bretton Woods Transcripts

Harry Dexter White (left), chief U.S. negotiator of the Bretton Woods agreements, and John Maynard Keynes, chief British negotiator, at the first meeting of the IMF and World Bank governors in 1946.
On international economic cooperation…
Fred Vinson (U.S. delegate, future Supreme Court chief justice): We are met here in Bretton Woods in an experimental test, probably the first time in the history of the world, that forty-four nations have convened seeking to solve difficult economic problems. We fight together on sodden battlefields. We sail together on the majestic blue. We fly together in the ethereal sky. The test of this conference is whether we can walk together, solve our economic problems, down the road to peace as we today march to victory. Sometimes [certain] problems seem to be most important on a particular day. Some folks think that the problems of the world were made to be solved in a day or in one conference. That can’t be. We must have cooperation, collaboration; utilize the machinery, the instrumentalities, that have been set up to provide succor to those who are hungry and ill; to set up, establish instrumentalities that will stabilize or tend toward stabilization of economies of our world.
(Commission I, seventh meeting)

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Praise for The Bretton Woods Transcripts

Schuler, along with his coeditor, Andrew Rosenberg, has done a superb job in putting this treasure trove in shape for publication. Even though there have been thousands and thousands of pages written about the Bretton Woods Conference, nothing beats the transcripts for a first-hand feel of what transpired.”
From the preface by Jacques de Larosière, Managing Director of the IMF from 1978-1987, and Steve H. Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Kurt Schuler, Andrew Rosenberg and the Center for Financial Stability deserve our thanks and congratulations for having unearthed and then nicely reproduced and edited the original Bretton Woods transcripts. This is truly a treasure trove for historians, showing exactly who said what to whom, when and why at that iconic Conference.”
Charles Goodhart, Financial Markets Group, London School of Economics; Former Chief Advisor, Bank of England

“The global economy is stuck with low growth rates and over indebtedness in very many leading countries today. The two issues - growth and fiscal/private debt overhangs - are the classical scopes of work of the International Monetary Fund; and we see that in this epoch the global institution named, has been relegated only to a back seat, while the so called ‘Troika’ does most of the diagnosis and most of the decision-making.

“Thus, what better than to counter now with a primary testimony of how the founding fathers of the IMF and the World Bank discussed, convened, negotiated and came about to a broad consensus at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in order to create an institutionality with a clear technical, financial, and macro mandate?”

Eduardo Aninat, Former Deputy Managing Director, IMF; Former Finance Minister of Chile; Present, Director General, UNIAPAC Foundation, Paris

“Bretton Woods set the standard for all future international economic conferences. These transcripts are a precious contribution to historical study and more importantly an inspiration for those charged with shaping the future.
Lawrence H. Summers, Former Secretary, US Treasury; Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government

“A fascinating and useful new e-book, The Bretton Woods Transcripts, has just been published by the Center for Financial Stability (CFS). While an 822 page ‘transcript’ might turn off all but the most serious monetary scholars, Kurt Schuler, who discovered the transcripts in the Treasury, and his coeditor Andrew Rosenberg have done a remarkable job of making the book user friendly. Their commentary is fascinating in its own right. Moreover, standard search engines allow one to easily scan through the document looking for topics or participants.

“In reading through various passages, I was most impressed by the foresight of the participants at the conference and their spirit of international cooperation, as they hammered out the agreements.

John B. Taylor, Former Under Secretary, US Treasury; Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University; and George P. Shultz Senior Fellow and Chair of Working Group on Economic Policy, Hoover Institution

“Everyone thinks they know what happened at Bretton Woods, but what they know has been filtered by generations of historical accounts. By publishing the Bretton Woods transcripts, Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg provide the unfiltered version. International monetary history will never be the same.
Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

“Historical memory, as we well know, can often fade, becoming encrusted with distortions and misperceptions. With the publication of these transcripts, Kurt Schuler and Andrew Rosenberg have done us all a lasting service. Economists and historians will gain fresh insight into what really happened and what was really intended at Bretton Woods. Diplomats and policy makers can gain valuable lessons about how to successfully organize and manage a complex international negotiation.”
Benjamin J. Cohen, Louis G. Lancaster Professor of International Political Economy, University of California, Santa Barbara

“It’s as if someone handed us Madison’s notes on the debate over the Constitution.”
Eric Rauchway of the University of California, Davis, as quoted in Transcript of 1944 Bretton Woods Conference Found at Treasury, The New York Times, October 25, 2012


If you would like to contribute information or have questions about Bretton Woods, please contact Kurt Schuler,

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Book Details
Publisher: Center for Financial Stability
Pages: 800 eBook / 675 hardcover
Price: $9.00 eBook / $33.68 hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781941801000 / 9781941801017

Read Excerpt

Excerpt includes table of contents, preface, introduction, and sample transcript.

Also of interest: Just Before Bretton Woods: The Atlantic City Conference, June 1944