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Archipelago Capitalism: Tax Havens, Eurodollars, and the Other International Political Economy, 1870s-1980s


This research project proposes to revise common interpretations of 20th-century economic history by unearthing the often overlooked story of tax havens and offshore finance, Eurodollars, and export processing zones between the 1870s and 1980s.

This project charts the emergence of a de-territorialized and unregulated legal and economic order from the 1870s-1980s. Under this regime, islands of capitalism were formed from tax havens and offshore finance, mostly in the Caribbean; the Eurodollar market, emanating from the City of London to the offshore world; Free Trade or Special Economic Zones in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East; and multinational corporations connecting these sites. These islands constituted a laboratory for unregulated markets in the shadow of national jurisdictions. With the end of Bretton Woods and the turn to neoliberalism in the late 1970s and 1980s, unregulated offshore finance, economic zones, and Eurodollars “abroad” became blueprints for expanding unfettered market capitalism “at home” in Europe and North America.

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