by David James Gill (University of Nottingham)
Trenches in World War I. From <www.express.co.uk>
We all think we know the consequences of the Great War – from the millions of dead to the rise of Nazism – but the story of the UK’s war debts to the United States remains largely untold.
In 1934, the British government defaulted on these loans, leaving unpaid debts exceeding $4 billion. The UK decided to cease repayment 18 months after France had defaulted on its war debts, making one full and two token repayments prior to Congressional approval of the Johnson Act, which prohibited further partial contributions.
Economists and political scientists typically attribute such hesitation to concerns about economic reprisals or the costs of future borrowing. Historians have instead stressed that delay reflected either a desire to protect transatlantic relations or a naive hope for outright cancellation.
Archival research reveals that the British cabinet’s…
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