Caliban: The Devaluation of Sterling in 1949

  • A. Cairncross


To those who took part in it, the devaluation of sterling in September 1949 was one of the most dramatic episodes in the postwar history of the United Kingdom. It seemed likely at the time that it would also prove one of the most important in terms of its effects. There might be room for disagreement as to the need or the purpose or the wisdom or even the significance of the devaluation. But it was unmistakably a turning-point. So rare and startling an event as a fall of 30 per cent in the parity of sterling, the currency in which one- third of the world’s commerce was conducted, could not fail to exercise a powerful influence on international transactions of all kinds. Yet many of those who have looked back on the devaluation have doubted whether it accomplished any lasting changes and have concluded that it was of quite minor importance in post-war economic development. How does it look now in retrospect after thirty years that have seen one more major devaluation of sterling as well as day-to-day fluctuations that rob devaluation of its drama?


Current Account Government Expenditure British Trade Dollar Market Dollar Reserve 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    P. Hennessy and M. Brown, ‘19-month progress to devaluation’, The Times, 8 January 1980.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for example, J. Jewkes, Ordeal by Planning (London: Macmillan, 1948) p. 233.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    P. Hennessy and M. Brown, ‘Deciphering the “Rose” Code’, The Times, 3 January 1980.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    P. Williams, Hugh Gaitskell (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979), p. 199.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    W. T. Rodgers (ed.), Hugh Gaitskell 1906–1963 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1964), p. 95.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles P. Kindleberger and Guido di Tella 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cairncross

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations