Professor Catherine Schenk

Featured Publication

The Decline of Sterling; managing the retreat of an international currency 1945-1992, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

The demise of sterling as an international currency was widely predicted after 1945, but the process took thirty years to complete. Why was this demise so prolonged? Traditional explanations emphasize British efforts to prolong sterling's role because it increased the capacity to borrow, enhanced prestige, or supported London as a centre for international finance. This book challenges this view by arguing that sterling's international role was prolonged by the weakness of the international monetary system and by collective global interest in its continuation. Using the archives of Britain's partners in Europe, the USA and the Commonwealth, Catherine Schenk shows how the UK was able to convince other governments that sterling's international role was critical for the stability of the international economy and thereby attract considerable support to manage its retreat. This revised view has important implications for current debates over the future of the US dollar as an international currency.



  • International economic relations
  • International monetary system
  • International banking and finance

My research focuses on the development of the international economy since 1945 with particular emphasis on the evolution of international banking and finance and the international monetary system.  My current funded project is Uses of the Past in International Economic Relations (UPIER) funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area.  This project has partners in Sweden, Switzerland and Spain and focuses on how the past was interpreted and used by policy-makers and market actors during and after financial crises.  I’m especially interested in the accumulation and restructuring of sovereign debt in the 1970s and 1980s.  My other research focuses on the transitions between international currencies and proposals for reform of the international monetary system in the 1970s and 1980s and the development of international banking and financial regulation.  Finally, I have a special interest in the history of China’s international economic relations through Hong Kong.

  • Regulatory foundations of financialisation: May Day, Big Bang and international banking 1975-1990

  • The Governance of the Bank for International Settlements 1973-2020

  • Central bank swaps then and now: swaps and dollar liquidity in the 1960s

  • Origins of the Asia Dollar Market 1968-86: regulatory competition and complementarity in Hong Kong and Singapore

  • Deutsche Bank: The Global Hausbank, 1870 – 2020

  • More


I look forward to supervising DPhil students on projects in the history of monetary and banking institutions or other aspects of international economic relations       

In the Media


IMF Spring Meetings, Future of the SDR, CGTN news report, April 2017  

Economic History Society Podcast: US-UK Relations: designing the post-1945 World Economy  

Legatum Institute, London, 2 June 2016: History of Capitalism lecture:  Hong Kong: Myths and Truths about a 'Free Market Paradise'

Reinventing Bretton Woods: 70 Years After Bretton Woods: The International Monetary System, Hangzhou China, 2015