Date of Thesis

Spring 4-1-2012

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Department

History

First Advisor

David W. Del Testa

Abstract

In this thesis, I will document and analyze historical aspects of the British debate over adopting a common currency with the European Community primarily during the last half of the twentieth century until the present. More specifically, while on the surface such a decision would seem to turn on economic or political considerations, I will show that this historic British decision not to surrender their pound sterling in exchange for the euro was rooted in the nation's cultural identity. During this decades long British debate over the euro, two opposing, but strongly held, positions developed; one side believed that Britain had a compelling interest in bonding with the rest of Europe economically as well as politically, the other side believed that Britain's independent heritage was deeply rooted in many of its traditions including maintaining control of its own monetary matters, which included keeping its pound sterling. As part of this thesis, I have conducted interviews with business leaders, economists, and social scientists as well as researched public records in order to assess many of the arguments favoring and opposing Britain's adoption of the euro. Many Britons strongly believed that it was time to join other Europeans, who were willing to sacrifice their sovereign currency to a bold common currency experiment, while other Britons viewed the pound sterling as too integral a part of British heritage to abandon. Ultimately, British leaders and citizens had to determine whether such a currency tradeoff would be worth it to them as a nation. It was a gamble that twelve other nations (at the time of the euro's 2002 launch) were ready to take, optimistically calculating that easier credit and reduced exchange transaction costs would lead to greater economic prosperity. Many asserted that only with ! ! such a united European monetary coalition would Europe's nations be able to compete trade-wise with powerful economic nations like the United States and China. My conclusion is that Britain's refusal to join the euro was a decision that had less to do with economic opportunity or political motivations and much more to do with how the British people viewed themselves culturally and their identity as an independent nation.

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