The story of Bretton Woods has been told by countless historians. We have a good sense of the wartime context, the negotiations themselves, the roles of many of the main actors (especially Great Britain and the United States), and the conference’s meaning for postwar global history. What can another book possibly tell us? Lots, actually.
In his new book, Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order
(Cornell University Press, 2018), Eric Helleiner
, a political economist at Waterloo University, retells this history with fresh, more globally-searching eyes. He examines the conference’s prehistory, which he locates in the United States’ Good Neighbor Policy towards Latin America in the 1930s. He follows representatives from the Global South in and around the conference, showing how they shaped the negotiations and the final agreements. And, finally, he reveals that the conference participants were very interested in the concept of development, a concept that many historians periodize a few years later.
The award-winning book should interest economic historians, historians of finance, global historians, historians of U.S. foreign policy, and anyone wanting a fuller, more inclusive account of how global governance works.
Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DexterFergie.