Covering Globalization: A Handbook for Reporters

By Anya Schiffrin; Amer Bisat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
FOREIGN EXCHANGE
MARKETS AND
FOREIGN
EXCHANGE
CRISES

SARA SILVER


BRIEF HISTORY

THE CONCEPT OF MONEY is probably as old as humanity itself, but it bas not always existed in the forms with which we are most familiar. Barter was long used as a means of exchanging goods— and in some cases it still is—put over time people began using more uniform means for trade. From cattle to shells to precious metals like gold and silver, money has had many forms throughout the ages. The paper currency now used widely across the globe was but one of these countless farms of money and traces back hundreds of years to China. In the United States, paper currency made its first appearance in the colonies in the seventeenth century, setting the stage for the introduction of paper money issued by the U.S. Treasury during the Civil War.

With the advent of paper currency came the challenge of keeping its value stable since the paper itself did not contain a built-in value like the precious metals that preceded it. Some nations tried to stabilize their currencies by fixing them to an anchor, such as the gold standard used for several decades and the Bretton Woods system, under which many countries fixed their currency to the dollar, which was fixed to gold between World War II and 1973. In this context, a nation that could not sustain infixed exchange rate or left the system altogether would face a currency crisis, but unless there was a simultaneous banking disaster, the country generally did not face a full-scale economic collapse or financial crisis.

In the past two decades, however, the liberalization of financial markets in developing nations—often referred to as emerging markets—and

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