Harry White and the American Creed How a Federal Bureaucrat Created the Modern Global Economy (and Failed to Get the Credit) James M. Boughton

Publication date:
08 Feb 2022
Yale University Press
464 pages: 235 x 156mm
18 b-w illus.
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The life of a major figure in twentieth‑century economic history whose impact has long been clouded by dubious allegations

Although Harry Dexter White (1892–1948) was arguably the most important U.S. government economist of the twentieth century, he is remembered more for having been accused of being a Soviet agent. During the Second World War, he became chief advisor on international financial policy to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, a role that would take him to Bretton Woods, where he would make a lasting impact on the architecture of postwar international finance. However, charges of espionage, followed by his dramatic testimony before the House Un‑American Activities Committee and death from a heart attack a few days later, obscured his importance in setting the terms for the modern global economy. In this book, James Boughton rehabilitates White, delving into his life and work and returning him to a central role as the architect of the world’s financial system.

James M. Boughton is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. He was previously historian of the International Monetary Fund, as well as assistant director in the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department at the IMF.

"A fine biography and a brave defense of a great American, who served his country and the world and paid for it with his reputation and his life. In our age of politics by character assassination, there is still a great deal at stake, for all of us, in the story of Harry Dexter White."—James K. Galbraith, The University of Texas at Austin

"Harry Dexter White has always been the mystery man at the center of America's international economic policy in the 1930s and 1940s. James Boughton helps demystify him in this rich, enlightening, and most interesting volume."—Douglas Irwin, author of Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy

"James Boughton has written a meticulous, forensic, and deeply revealing book about Harry Dexter White that examines his crucial contributions to the design of the postwar economic order, how they originated from the international visions of the New Deal, as well as the controversies surrounding White’s alleged activities as  a Soviet spy."—Harold James, author of The War of Words: A Glossary of Globalization