Decline to Fall: The Making of British Macro-Economic Policy and the 1976 IMF Crisis

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This book provides the first comprehensive and authoritative account of the events leading up to the UK seeking a massive loan from the IMF in 1976 which almost precipitated a financial crisis on a par with those of the 1930's and early post War period. Sir Douglas Wass, who was permanent Secretary to the Treasury at the time, provides a unique first hand account of the events that took place as the crisis unfolded and the decision-making process. Bringing unrivalled experience and knowledge of Whitehall to the narrative, he draws on recently released documents such as official Treasury minutes, memoranda, official statements and reports, IMF documents and blends them with his own assessment of this key period of policy making to provide a fascinating, blow-by-blow account of how the Treasury reacted when faced with a series of inter-locking crises. Decline to Fall will be a must read for anyone interested in the formulation of policy and the workings of government.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The economic problems facing the UK in the mid-1970s were on a scale which is hard to imagine today, but the policy challenges and trade-offs—arising from conflicting objectives, uncertain statistical data and capricious markets—still resonate. Douglas Wass's lucid and scholarly account is invaluable. It reflects extensive research as well as his first hand experience in steering the Treasury successfully through one of the most difficult periods in its history into the modern era. Decline to Fall should be essential reading for any economic policy maker."— Nicholas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to the UK Treasury

"This is a collectors item. We have ministerial memoirs aplenty from the 1970s but no official who sat in the eye of any of the great economic storms of the postwar years has produced anything that matches Douglas Wass on 1976. There is Sturm und Drang on every page and Sir Douglas is as critical of himself and his own in the Treasury as he is of the other players whether they be in the Cabinet Room, the Bank of England, or the International Monetary Fund."— Peter Hennessy, FBA, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, University of London

"This is the definitive and detailed account of one of the worst financial and political events to affect the United Kingdom in the past fifty years, the great IMF crisis of 1976. Any historian of the period will find this book indispensable."—Shirley Williams, The Baroness Williams of Crosby and Professor Emerita, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199534746
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2008
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sir Douglas Wass spent the main working part of his life as a senior civil servant in the Treasury, which he joined in 1946 after War service. His experience ranged over all aspects of the Treasury and he represented the UK in both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was the Private Secretary to two Chancellors and to the Chief Secretary. In 1981 he was appointed Joint Head of the Civil Service. After retirement he gave the Reith Lectures on how the system of representative government works in the UK.

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Table of Contents


1 The Anatomy of Economic Policy Making in the 1970s: The Railway Timetables' 1

2 1974 - Marking Time 35

3 1975 - Policy Changes 90

4 1976 Part 1 - The Markets Take Over 164

5 1976 Part 2 - Resolving the Crisis 241

6 Some Conclusions 307

Sources and Bibliography 359

Index 369

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