The Economic History Review

International banking and transmission of the 1931 financial crisis

Volume 72 Issue 1
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Pages: 260-285Authors: Olivier Accominotti
Published online: June 26, 2018DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12736

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Abstract In May to July 1931, a series of financial panics shook central Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. This article explores the role of cross-border banking linkages in propagating the central European crisis to Britain and the US. Using archival bank-level data, the article documents US and British banks’ exposure to central European frozen credits in 1931. Central European lending was mostly done by large and diversified commercial banks in the US and by small and geographically specialized merchant banks/acceptance houses in Britain. Differences in the organization of international bank lending explain why the central European crisis disturbed few US banks but endangered many British financial institutions.