Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 5 No. 2 (Spring 1991)


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Historical Research on International Lending and Debt

Article Citation

Eichengreen, Barry. 1991. "Historical Research on International Lending and Debt." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(2): 149-169.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.2.149


The parallels between debt crises past and present have attracted a large number of social scientists to the history of foreign lending and default. In this article, I describe the findings of the recent literature on the subject. The questions posed have obvious relevance to the current policy debate over the debt of less-developed countries. What features of international capital markets have long rendered them vulnerable to generalized crisis? What events tend to spawn debt-servicing difficulties and to provoke default? What have been the consequences of default for lenders and borrowers? What approaches historically have proven most effective at clearing away the residue of debt crises? I concentrate on 20th century experience: on the lending of the 1920s, on the debt crisis of the 1930s, and on the recovery of capital markets after World War II.

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Eichengreen, Barry (U CA Berkeley and NBER)

JEL Classifications

N20: Economic History: Financial Markets and Institutions: General, International, or Comparative
F34: International Lending and Debt Problems


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