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Dr Duncan Needham

Dr Duncan Needham

Dean and Senior Tutor, Darwin College.

Director, Centre for Financial History.

Director, MPhil in Economic and Social History.

Senior Researcher, Centre for Risk Studies, Judge Business School.

Associate Lecturer, Faculty of History.

Darwin College
Silver Street

Cambridge CB3 9EU
Office Phone: +44 (0)7824 533 659


My research shows how events such as the 1967 devaluation, the collapse of Bretton Woods, the stagflation of the 1970s, and the 1976 IMF loan all impacted economic policy in Britain.  In contrast to the ‘monetary policy neglect’ thesis it shows that the unprecedented inflation of the 1970s happened in spite of the UK authorities setting unpublished money supply targets from 1971.  After missing these targets, the Bank of England concluded that tight control of the money supply was impracticable in an open economy such as the UK.  Conservative policymakers drew the opposite conclusion; that only tighter control of the money supply would cure Britain of its inflationary ills.  Conservative strategists now acknowledge that their misconceived monetary policy deepened the 1980-81 recession.  With nominal interest rates at 17 percent, the soaring pound made Britain a net importer of manufactured goods for the first time since before the Industrial Revolution, pushing unemployment above three million for the first time since the 1930s.  This failure to heed the lessons of 1970s monetary policy has had profound long-term consequences for the British economy.

After completing my first degree at the London School of Economics in 1994, I was a bond trader at JP Morgan and then a fund manager at Cairn Capital, returning to academia in 2008.

Subject groups/Research projects

Economic, Social and Cultural History:

Research Interests

Contemporary British History, Monetary History, Economic History, Political History.

Research Supervision

I supervise MPhil and undergraduate dissertations in topics on twentieth century British and American economic history.  I currently supervise PhD candidates on the following topics:

European monetary integration 1978-92: British and French experiences

A peculiar kind of credit? Regulation, high-cost credit and the working poor 1870-2016.

The 1973 oil crisis and the British government’s economic and security interests, 1967-1979.

The long shadow of default: rethinking the causes and consequences of the United Kingdom's unpaid war debts, 1917 - 1978.

New York Trust Company exposures and institutional funding arrangements during the Panic of 1907.


Part I (History)

Paper 6 British Political History since 1880

Paper 10 British Economic and Social History, 1700-1880

Paper 11 British Economic and Social History, since c.1880

Part 1 (Economics)

Paper 4 Political and Social Aspects of Economics

Paper 5 British Economic History

M.Phil in Economic and Social History

International Political Economy (Central Concepts)

Money, trade and politics: from the Gold Standard to the Euro crisis (Option Paper)


Approaches to Economic History (Approaches and Methodologies Course)

Key Publications

‘The evolution of monetary policy in Western Europe’ in S. Battilossi, Y. Cassis and K. Yago (eds), Handbook of the history of money and currency, (Springer, 2018).

J. Hoppit, A.B. Leonard and D.J. Needham (eds), Money and markets: essays in honour of Martin Daunton (Boydell and Brewer, 2018).

‘Historical reasons for the focus on broad monetary aggregates in post-WWII Britain and the “Seven Years War” with the IMF', Financial History Review (December, 2017) - with Charles Goodhart.

‘Snakes and ladders: navigating European monetary union’ in D.D. Coffman, R. Scazzieri and I. Cardinale, The political economy of the Eurozone (Cambridge University Press, 2017, ISBN: 9781107124011).

‘Britain’s money supply experiment, 1971-73’, English Historical Review (February, 2015).

Monetary policy from devaluation to Thatcher, 1967-1982 (Palgrave, 2014, ISBN: 9781137369536).

‘The 1981 Budget: a Dunkirk not an Alamein’ in D.J. Needham and A.C. Hotson (eds.), Expansionary fiscal contraction: the Thatcher government’s 1981 Budget in perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2014).  Selected contributors: Lord Howe of Aberavon, Sir Tim Lankester, Sir Alan Budd, Sir Adam Ridley, Robert Z. Aliber, William Keegan, Robert Neild and Charles Goodhart (ISBN: 9781107042933).

‘Goodbye Great Britain? The Press, the Treasury, and the 1976 IMF crisis’, in S. Schifferes and R.W. Roberts (eds.), The media and financial crises: historical and comparative perspectives (Routledge, 2014, ISBN 9781138022782)

Other Publications

Review of K. Hirowatari, ‘Britain and European monetary cooperation, 1964-1979’ (Basingstoke, 2015), EH.Net (May, 2016).

Review of J.D. Turner, ‘Banking in crisis: the rise and fall of British banking stability, 1800 to the present’ (Cambridge, 2014), English Historical Review (October, 2015).

‘Maplin: the Treasury and London’s third airport in the 1970s’, History and Policy paper (October, 2014), published online at

Review of A. Ögren and L.F. Øksendal (eds.), ‘The gold standard peripheries: monetary policy, adjustment and flexibility in a global setting’ (Basingstoke, 2012), Economic History Review, vol. 66, issue 3 (August, 2013), pp. 946-7.

Austerity Britain: it’s déjà vu all over again, University of Cambridge Research (January, 2013).  Published online at

‘Britain’s money supply experiment, 1971-73’, Cambridge Working Paper on Social and Economic History, no. 10 (September 2012).

The 1981 Budget – facts and fallacies, (March 2012), D.J. Needham, M.J. Oliver and A. Riley (eds.). Published online at

Fentiman Road: drawing the Conservative fiscal policy threads together in 1978, (Jan 2012).  Published online at