Claudio Koller ยท 2/6/2023

What was the Bretton Woods System?

The Bretton Woods system was the global monetary system established at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. The system was created in response to economic turmoil during the Great Depression and World War II. It was intended to promote international economic stability and prevent the devaluation of currencies that had contributed to the Depression.

US Dollar as the World Reserve Currency

This meant that the U.S. dollar became the de facto global reserve currency and the value of other currencies was determined by their exchange rate with the dollar. Under this system, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was also established to provide financial assistance to countries experiencing balance of payments difficulties.

Bretton Woods Conference

A monetary and financial conference of the United Nations Organization (UNO) was held at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire from July 1 to 22, 1944. The agreement signed at the conference served to reorganize the world economy and formed the basis for a new monetary system with fixed exchange rates.

Emergence of the Gold Standard

This agreement created a new international monetary system with the U.S. dollar serving as the world's reserve currency. A parity of $35 per ounce of gold was established, ensured by gold purchases and sales by the Federal Reserve. The exchange rates of the other currencies were fixed against the U.S. dollar. Thus, all other currencies were indirectly backed by gold.

End of the Bretton Woods System

The Bretton Woods system remained in effect until the early 1970s, when a number of economic and political factors led to its collapse. These included the high cost of the Vietnam War and the increasing difficulty in maintaining the fixed exchange rates required by the system.

> Learn more about the Nixon Shock.

The collapse of the Bretton Woods system marked the end of the era of fixed exchange rates and the beginning of today's unbacked fiat money.

> Learn more about Fiat Money.


The Bretton Woods system was a significant development in the history of international finance and played a crucial role in the post-World War II global economic order.

Under the Bretton Woods system, the value of national currencies was pegged to the value of gold and the U.S. dollar was introduced as the world's reserve currency.

However, the system ultimately faced collapse and was eventually replaced by a new system with floating exchange rates.

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