CFDP 1321

Exchange Rates and Casualties During the First World War

Author(s): 

Publication Date: August 2001

Pages: 39

Abstract: 

I estimate a single factor model of Swiss exchange rates during World War I for five of the primary belligerents: Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. At the outbreak of the war these nations suspended convertibility of their currencies into gold with the promise that after the war each would restore convertibility at the old par. However, once convertibility was suspended, each currency became a state-contingent claim; after the war it would pay off at (or near) the old par if the country won or pay off significantly less than par (perhaps nothing) if the country lost. The single factor extracted from the five exchange rates appears to contain information on contemporaries’ expectations about the war’s outcome. Innovations to the single factor are correlated with time series on soldiers killed and wounded and soldiers taken prisoner.

Keywords: 

First World War, factor models, principal component analysis

JEL Classification Codes: E40, N14, N24, F31