Marc Adam

Graduate School of North American Studies

Abteilung Wirtschaft

John F. Kennedy-Institut für Nordamerikastudien


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Credit Constraints and International Trade in the Interwar Period

In this dissertation project I study the role of financing international trade in the interwar period. It seeks to reconcile a finance view of future discounted cash flows with an economics view of past investment decisions To study the collapse of the international payment system, a web of interlocking cash commitments spinning across the globe, the breakdown of the interwar gold standard, serves as a case in point. The thin strings of daily payments made by importers come together in the financial centers of London and New York from where exporters draw funds for the production and shipment of the next round of trade. Special emphasis is laid on the market for bankers’ acceptances denominated in U.S. dollars, which played a major role in financing not only U.S. foreign trade but also trade between foreign countries at the onset of the Great Depression. What are the causes and effects of the breakdown of the financial structures that allowed international trade during the wars? Was the financial crisis of the 1930s transmitted across the globe via the channel of trade finance?


I use industry level data to construct a dataset for the Depression period of 1929 to 1939. With this I attempt to measure the impact of credit constraints on exporters in and outside the United States with different levels of financial vulnerability. Qualitative data will be used o investigate the impact of governments to create new structures and sources of financing exports.