Money and Gold

Gold has always played an important role in the international monetary system. Gold coins were first struck on the order of King Croesus of Lydia (an area that is now part of Turkey), around 550 BC. They circulated as currency in many countries before the introduction of paper money. Once paper money was introduced, currencies still maintained an explicit link to gold (the paper being exchangeable for gold on demand). 

Approximately 150 documents are divided into three sections that correspond roughly with the changing position of gold in the international economic system.

The Rise of the Gold Standard, 1660 - 1819The Heyday of the Gold Standard, 1820 - 1930 and After the Gold Standard, 1931 - 1999 :

Records 1660-1819

Covering the period from the mid-17th century through to the British Government's decision to allow the free exchange of paper, money and gold, and presenting documents, primarily from the UK, that relate to the establishment of gold coinage as the centrepiece of the British financial system. The documents contained here address four themes: the legal position of gold coinage; popular views of gold; technologies of gold coinage; and early theoretical evaluations of the gold standard.

Records 1820-1930

Covering the period from the establishment of the UK gold standard in the early 19th century until the re-establishment of the gold standard after the First World War. Three themes are dealt with: the legal position of gold in the currency systems of the major western nations; political debates over the role of gold; and international agreements relating to gold. Continental European monetary arrangements are covered in this section, as are several major international agreements from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Records 1931-1999

Covering the period commencing with the breakdown of the post-WW1 gold standard in the 1930s and concluding with the Central Banks' Gold Agreement (Washington Agreement on Gold) of 1999. The documents follow four themes: the collapse of the gold standard; legislation, primarily from the US, relating to gold; the international gold market; and international agreements relating to gold. An account of some of the activities of the London gold market is included. The ultimate collapse of the Bretton Woods system is covered in great detail with numerous documents from various official sources.