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Extra resources for Britain, America and Rearmament in the 1930s: The Cost of Failure

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33 Roosevelt’s task in finding agreement with the British was not helped by his early actions as president, when the domestic aspects of the New Deal took priority. In March and April 1933 the president executed a 32 Britain, America and Rearmament in the 1930s series of measures which temporarily removed the United States from the gold standard and devalued the dollar. His aims were to raise US prices, aid exports and thus end the agricultural Depression. Such considerations were not foremost in British minds, however, and when the export of US gold was prohibited on 19 April 1933, the prime minister and a team of senior civil servants were travelling to the United States to discuss currency stabilisation with Roosevelt prior to the World Economic Conference.

Although depression had reduced international trade after 1929, British Britain’s Unwelcome Recovery, 1931–36 29 imports from the Empire remained constant in value between 1929 and 1936, while imports from the rest of the world declined and imports from the United States more than halved. 19 The new intra-imperial trading bloc based on British growth was, therefore, of mutual benefit to its members not only during the Depression but also during recovery. This was by no means an invisible phenomenon and it became increasingly obvious over time, embarrassingly so to economic liberals who reacted instinctively against the idea that the Ottawa system might prove permanently beneficial to Britain, despite its evident success.

68 Many non-Empire countries shared these imperatives. 69 In this piecemeal way, the sterling bloc was created, as separate authorities entered a common system to alleviate their shared difficulties. The British authorities were quick to perceive these consequences of sterling’s float. ’ Because of this he felt that ‘depression in the United States might exist with a very fair degree of general prosperity in the rest of the world’. The agency of this world prosperity could only be Britain, which was ‘off gold’ and ‘to a large extent insulated from depression in the States.

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