A history of exchange-rate regimes

Alasdair Macleod – 22 August 2012

It’s almost as if currencies are designed to confuse you. In fact, sometimes they even lie to you. Take the pound sterling for example; each 5, 10, 20 and 50 pound note assures you, the esteemed owner, the gracious right to redeem it for… 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds respectively. Either there’s an awkward “I-give-it-to-you-so-that-you-can-give-it-back-to-me” manoeuvre involved here or somebody’s lying. Well, this quirk and much more is cleared up when recounting the evolution of currency systems over the past two centuries; and as it turns out this history is far more exciting than is usually let on (think political thriller as opposed to economic textbook!). So without further ado here we present a history of exchange-rate regimes from 1821 to the present day.

Click image to enlarge and/or use Ctrl+Plus (or ⌘+Plus for Macs):

Hat tips to greshams-law.com (co-producer), IMF (many sources), Jim Trott, Eric Rauchway / Dartmouth, eh.net (many sources), and the St Louis Fed.

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Alasdair started his career as a stockbroker in 1970 on the London Stock Exchange. In those days, trainees learned everything: from making the tea, to corporate finance, to evaluating and dealing in equities and bonds. They learned rapidly through experience about things as diverse as mining shares and general economics. It was excellent training, and within nine years Alasdair had risen to become senior partner of his firm. Subsequently, Alasdair held positions at director level in investment management, and worked as a mutual fund manager. He also worked at a bank in Guernsey as an executive director. For most of his 40 years in the finance industry, Alasdair has been de-mystifying macro-economic events for his investing clients. The accumulation of this experience has convinced him that unsound monetary policies are the most destructive weapon governments use against the common man. Accordingly, his mission is to educate and inform the public in layman’s terms what governments do with money and how to protect themselves from the consequences.

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