After the War
The World Bank, the IMF, and the End
1945 to 1946

Date Event
September 1945 to December 1945 Keynes travels to the United States again, hoping to secure a loan to help Britain rebuild its economy. If he does not succeed, food rations in Britain will have to be cut severely.

Keynes speaks at the Federal Reserve for three days, presenting facts without embellishment. All present agree it is the finest presentation of a case they have ever heard.

Members of the British and American delegation break into separate commissions to discuss individual problems - over a period of three months.

The British obtain a loan from America, which will be interest free for six years and then charged at two percent. Also, Britain's huge potential Lend-Lease obligations to America will be remitted in their entirety. It is likely that Keynes's efforts for Britain have been rewarded with more generous terms than might have been obtained otherwise.
December 1945 Keynes returns to Britain, his health poor with fatigue, to find a significant degree of malcontent with the loan agreement he has negotiated with America. In Parliament and in the country at large there is a growing anti-American feeling, spurred by the belief that Britain is being forced into too many concessions to America in order to obtain the loan.

Unfortunately, most people are not acquainted with the economic facts. Keynes gives a masterful performance in the House of Lords, explaining the terms of the loan agreement and how Britain could not reasonably expect more.
February 1946 Keynes finds time to return to Cambridge and to dine amongst friends in his old Monday Evening Club.
20 February 1946 Keynes suffers a slight heart attack while visiting the ballet at Covent Garden.
24 February 1946 Keynes sets sail for New York, from where he travels to Savannah, Georgia for what will prove to be his final visit to the United States. He anticipates a pleasant time at the inaugural meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and plans to enjoy a vacation afterwards in Savannah, a place he has previously found to be highly agreeable.

In fact, the meeting proves to be difficult and ill-tempered. In Keynes's view, the Americans are taking advantage of their strong economic position to force ill-conceived decisions on the IMF and Bank. Nations in debt to the Americans are voting with America, not because they want to but because, as a result of their dependence on American aid, they feel they have no other option.

Until now, Keynes has always spoken strongly in favour of Americans - he has always found them to be pragmatic, ready to look at issues from all angles and ready to compromise. Now it seems they merely wish to dictate. When the meeting is over, Keynes abandons his plans for a vacation in Savannah. The place now has bitter associations and, on March 18 he leaves on the night train for Washington.
19 March 1946 On the train to Washington Keynes suffers a severe heart attack.
11 April 1946 Over lunch at the Bank of England, Keynes tells Henry Clay of his hopes that Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' can help Britain out of the economic hole it is in:

"I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand which I tried to eject from economic thinking twenty years ago."
21 April 1946 John Maynard Keynes dies at home, in bed.
22 April 1946 The Times obituary writes of Keynes:

"To find an economist of comparable influence, one would have to go back to Adam Smith."


R.F. Harrod, The Life of John Maynard Keynes, 1951

Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes 1883 - 1946, 2003