The Decline of Sterling: Managing the Retreat of an International Currency, 1945-1992; Banking on Sterling: Britain's Independence From the Euro Zone

In This Review

The Decline of Sterling: Managing the Retreat of an International Currency, 1945-1992
By Catherine R. Schenk
Cambridge University Press, 2010
454 pp. $99.00
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Banking on Sterling: Britain's Independence from the Euro Zone
By Ophelia Eglene
Lexington Books, 2010
167 pp. $60.00
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Together, these two books cover the evolution of the United Kingdom's currency since World War II. Schenk, a historian, focuses on the decline of sterling as an international currency, a process that started as a British policy objective in the late 1940s and finally concluded three decades later. Drawing on archival material, she details the evolving and occasionally conflicting views within the British government about both goals and tactics and examines the financial backing the United Kingdom received from other countries to support sterling.

Eglene, a political scientist, follows events since 1990 and focuses on the United Kingdom's deliberations on joining the euro -- that is, abolishing sterling altogether. She concludes that both the views of the United Kingdom's financial sector and official anxiety about it, rather than ideology or public opinion, played the decisive role in the country's procrastination with respect to joining the eurozone.