Proposal preview

The Anglosphere in the 1920s

The 1920s was a decade of tenuous globalization, bounded by the First World War and the globalization backlash that accompanied the Great Depression. This session examines the economic complexities of the Anglosphere countries during the 1920s. The Anglosphere encompassed two of the world’s largest economies—the UK and the USA. For both of these countries, the 1920s represented a break from the economic policies of the past, with the UK now beginning to protect its industries, and with the USA now possessing a central bank. The Anglosphere was broader than just the UK and the USA, however. It included a number of smaller, less-industrialized economies which encountered many similar (but also some different) challenges in the decade after the First World War. Altogether, this session offers novel insights about the diverse range of Anglosphere economies, which are approached from both domestic and international perspectives.

Ivan Luzardo-Luna measures the degree of friction in regional British labour markets by estimating time series of the matching function for nine regions. One of the features of British labour markets was a high incidence of unemployment in the North, Scotland, and Wales, but the presence of job opportunities in the South. This research examines the contributions of inter-regional and intra-regional mobility to the persistence of significant differences in labour frictions among British regions, which varied greatly in their industrial composition. The British rayon industry is the focus of Brian Varian’s research. The rayon industry was one of the classic ‘Second Industrial Revolution’ industries which emerged in the 1920s. It was also among those select British industries to have received protection prior to the Import Duties Act of 1932. This research assesses the extent to which the British rayon industry was dependent upon tariff protection during the short-lived interwar British gold standard (1925-31), when sterling was, debatably, overvalued.

One of the most prominent features of globalization in the 1920s was the emergence of the USA as an international creditor, and this phenomenon is also one of the most underexplored. Andrea Papadia’s research examines the determinants of the geographical allocation of American capital exports. The rise of the USA as a capital exporter followed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which lifted a ban on foreign branch banking. American banks established branches abroad and gathered intelligence, in preparation for underwriting and selling foreign bonds. Papadia identifies the informational and other advantages that caused American banks and investors to direct capital to particular regions and countries. Domestic lending, by the Federal Reserve banks, is the focus of Kilian Rieder’s research. Drawing upon microdata from individual national bank balance sheets, Rieder assesses the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve’s ‘lean against the wind’ monetary policies in halting a credit boom in the early 1920s. In this research, the empirical strategy involves exploiting policy differences across Federal Reserve district borders; these differences derived from the decentralized nature of the Federal Reserve system and the Phelan Act of 1920, which empowered individual Federal Reserve banks to implement progressive discount rate schemes in their districts.


  • Brian Varian, Swansea University,, UK
  • Andrea Papadia, European University Institute,, Italy

Session members

  • Ivan Luzardo-Luna, LSE,
  • Brian Varian, Swansea University,
  • Frank Barry, Trinity College Dublin,
  • Andrea Papadia, European University Institute,
  • Kilian Rieder, Oxford University,
  • Andrew Seltzer, Royal Holloway,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Andrew Seltzer, Royal Holloway,
  • Michael Bordo, Rutgers University,