The Long Shadow of Default

David James Gill


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Yale University Press
24 January 2023
ISBN: 9780300247183
416 pages

From the publisher

Rethinking the causes and consequences of Britain's default on its First World War debts to the United States of America

The Long Shadow of Default focuses on an important but neglected example of sovereign default between two of the wealthiest and most powerful democracies in modern history. The United Kingdom accrued considerable financial debts to the United States during and immediately after the First World War. In 1934, the British government unilaterally suspended payment on these debts. This book examines why the United Kingdom was one of the last major powers to default on its war debts to the United States and how these outstanding obligations affected political and economic relations between both governments. The British government's unpaid debts cast a surprisingly long shadow over policymaking on both sides of the Atlantic. Memories of British default would limit transatlantic cooperation before and after the Second World War, inform Congressional debates about the economic difficulties of the 1970s, and generate legal challenges for both governments up until the 1990s. More than a century later, the United Kingdom's war debts to the United States remain unpaid and outstanding.

David James Gill provides one of the most detailed historical analyses of any sovereign default. He brings attention to an often-neglected episode in international history to inform, refine, and sometimes challenge the wider study of sovereign default.