Proposal preview

The Interwar Banking Crises: An International Perspective

The banking crises of 1931 were a major turning point for many Western economies during the Great Depression. In May of 1931, the largest financial institution in Austria, the Creditanstalt, collapsed. The collapse of the Creditanstalt instigated the beginning of an international banking crisis. During the next month, financial difficulties spread throughout central Europe, spreading to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, and eventually Germany. The failure of the large German bank, the Darmstadter- und Nationalbank in July triggered runs throughout that nation and the German government closed all depository institutions. Later that summer, the crisis spread to Britain. In September, sales of sterling and withdrawals from British banks accelerated. In order to halt financial outflows, Britain abandoned the gold standard (Barry Eichengreen 1992, Peter Temin 1989, 1993, and 2008; Charles Kindleburger 1986).

There has been a revived interest in the transmission and effects of the German crisis to the U.S. (Olivier Accominotti, 2012 and 2016; Harold James, 2009; Albrecht Ritschl and Samad Sarferaz, 2014; Gary Richardson and Patrick Van Horn, 2011 and 2009). This discussion has renewed interest in the possible transmission channels of the Austrian crisis abroad. Many of these studies utilize new archival microdata that yield new insights into the effects of the crisis and the possible diffusion of the crisis abroad.

There has also been a recent and intensive effort to investigate the effects of the crisis on other countries, the banking systems in place, and the response of financial institutions and central banks therein. For example, the experiences in France and Spain differed from those in other parts of the continent of Europe and the U.S. These results stem from newly exploited data from central and commercial banks. These results, when combined with the experiences across Europe, the U.K., and the U.S., suggest that there was a large amount of heterogeneity in regards to the effects of the banking crisis of 1931.

The purpose of this panel is to bring together scholars and research in all of these areas to discuss how all of these different countries and, in effect, banking systems, reacted to the crisis of 1931. By doing so, we hope to foster a dialogue that can add to our understanding of the crisis, its transmission, and in some cases its containment. There is possible funding for a preconference workshop that would take place prior to the World Congress of Economic History in the spring preceding the conference. This would allow the participants the opportunity to present their most current material prior to the conference, and therefore allow for a more productive session at the WEHC meetings in July.

Accominotti, Olivier. “London Merchant Banks, the Central European Panic and the Sterling Crisis of 1931.” Journal of Economic History 72, no. 1 (2012): 1-43.
———“Global Banking and the International Transmission of the 1931 Financial Crisis.” Mimeo. (2016).
James, Harold. (2009). The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle. Harvard University Press.
Park, Haelim. (2013). Bank Lending and Economic Recovery in Britain in the 1930s. University of California at Irvine (PH.D. Thesis).
Richardson, Gary, and Patrick Van Horn. 2009. “Intensified Regulatory Scrutiny and Bank Distress in New York City During the Great Depression.” Journal of Economic History, 69: 446-465.
Ritschl, Albrecht and Samad Sarferaz. Currency vs. Banking in the German Debt Crisis of 1931. International Economic Review, 55, no. 2 (2014): 349-373 .
Temin, Peter. Lessons from the Great Depression. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989.
——– (1993). Transmission of the Great Depression. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring, pp. 87-102.
——– (2008) “The German Crisis of 1931: Evidence


  • Patrick Van Horn, Southwestern University,, USA
  • Gary Richardson, University of California, Irvine and NBER,, USA

Session members

  • Olivier Accominotti, London School of Economics,
  • Patrice Baubeau, Université Paris Nanterr,
  • Enrique Jorge-Sotelo, London School of Economics,
  • Flora Macher, London School of Economics,
  • Eric Monnet, Banque de France,
  • Gary Richardson, University of California, Irvine and NBER,
  • Angelo Riva, European Business School,
  • Patrick Van Horn, Southwestern University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • , ,