MEHR Seminar: Leigh Gardner, British Museum, 'Money and Empire: A New Look at Currency Boards in British Colonial Africa'

Abstract: Though often neglected by historians of the British Empire, colonial currency boards played an important role in the economic and financial management of the colonies. Initially established in response to bank failures in Mauritius and Ceylon in the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century currency boards became the standard means of issuing colonial currencies backed by sterling reserves. In addition, through the investment of their reserves, currency boards became a source of revenue for colonial governments and means for the redistribution of funds between colonies and regions. This paper will present the preliminary results of new research into the currency boards of British colonial Africa, their role in the British Empire's financial organization, and the fiscal and economic effects of the system on the colonies themselves.