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Visiting Scholars Seminar: New Research on Europe

Funk Money: Decolonization and the Expansion of Tax Havens, 1950s-1960s


September 12, 2018
12:15pm - 1:45pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
September 12, 2018
12:15pm - 1:45pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

This talk explores the emergence of the modern offshore world as a way to reopen the history of the decades ca. 1920s-1980s. During these decades an archipelago of distinct legal spaces appeared in a world otherwise increasingly dominated by more sizable nation-states. These sites formed islands of free-market capitalism that would become foundational for today’s global economy as it emerged from the 1970s and 1980s. Among these spaces were tax havens, offshore capital markets, flags of convenience registries, and foreign trade zones, reaching from the Channel Islands, Monaco, and Luxembourg to the Bahamas, Panama, and Singapore, among many others. The talk asks why tax havens in particular expanded significantly between ca. 1945 and 1965, and points to the crucial role that decolonization and the end of empires played in this story. Historians, it is proposed, should view decolonization as an economic and financial event. The talk thus sheds light on a crucial period during which much of today’s tax avoidance industry got off the ground, with lasting implications for the rise of inequality in Europe and North America.

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