One hundred and thirty years of central bank cooperation: a BIS perspective

BIS Working Papers No 197
February 2006


With the insight of 130 years of history, this paper tries to answer three questions: how did changing international monetary and financial conditions shape the targets and tools of central bank cooperation? What factors influenced its intensity? Did a structured organisation, such as the BIS, make a difference to its effectiveness? We show that while central bank cooperation through history was ultimately directed to ensuring monetary and financial stability, the conception of these objectives, the relationship between the two, the balance in their pursuit, and the strategies followed evolved over time reflecting changes in the monetary and financial environment as well as in the intellectual climate. In turn, the intensity of central bank cooperation was influenced by the state of international relations, the prestige and degree of autonomy of central banks and the technical nature of the issues requiring cooperation. We also argue that the BIS made a material difference, at least when conditions allowed.

JEL classification: E50, F02, N10, N20, N40

Keywords: central bank, cooperation, Bank for International Settlements (BIS), monetary and financial stability, gold standard, Bretton Woods