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The Cold War origins of the Euro

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On 1 January 2002, the citizens of the Euro-zone forsook ‘the coins for Cortez’ men looking out on to Darien; the money of Mozart for his music and Molière for his manuscripts; of Tiberius for his treasure and Krupp for his cannon’. European statesmen had long contemplated monetary union, unafraid to evoke the memory of Charlemagne to soothe deep-seated national hostilities. But while the major European currencies had been pegged for most of the previous century, the Euro was a different proposition. Why, three years after locking their exchange rates, did the 315 million citizens of nations as geographically and culturally distinct as Finland, Greece and Luxembourg awake to find themselves using the same notes and coin?

This paper explains the genesis of the Euro within the strategic concerns of the two principal players, France and Germany. Others were involved, but with these two countries comprising more than half the Euro-zone’s economic output, Franco-German policy was paramount. As Charles de Gaulle pointed out in the early 1960s, ‘l’Europe, c’est la France et l’Allemagne. Les autres, c’est les légumes’.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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