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Work of former USP academic published internationally

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Professor Wadan Narsey with a copy of his published book titled ‘British Imperialism and the Making of Colonial Currency Systems'

A former Professor of Economics at The University of the South Pacific (USP) has had his work published by Palgrave Macmillan, an International publisher of textbooks, academic and professional books, journals, reference and general non-fiction.

Professor Wadan Narsey’s book, ‘British Imperialism and the Making of Colonial Currency Systems’ was published 28 years after he completed his doctorate thesis at Sussex University in Britain, that satisfied both international and local standards.

USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra congratulated Professor Narsey on his publication.

“You will of course recall us talking about this publication earlier through Macmillan. I am very pleased that it is out now and that through it you are making a major contribution internationally to this area of research and policy,” Professor Chandra said.

Covering the colonial Empire (including West Indies, India, Singapore, West Africa and East Africa), this book is a detailed revisionist history of the British imperial manipulations of colonial currency systems to facilitate the rise of sterling to world supremacy via the gold standard, and to slow its eventual decline after World War I.

Official internal correspondence is used to show that Britain typically acted against the advice of colonial commercial interests, colonial governments, and even officials in the Colonial Office, in order to replace international currencies (including gold and sterling itself), with localised silver currencies.

The local currencies were backed by gold and sterling reserves in London, under the total control of the British Treasury and the Bank of England. In the process liquidity was provided to the London money market, and cheap finance to the British Government.

His book provides a new perspective on theories of imperialism, colonial money and colonial underdevelopment, with possible geostrategic historical lessons for the US dollar and emerging global currencies such as Chinese renminbi and the Euro.

It is valuable reading for academics and students interested in theories of imperialism, colonial under-development, money (national and international) and related topics such as currency areas and exchange rates. Its comprehensive index links monetary concepts to actual events in the British Empire, with pointers to new research areas.

Macmillan also provided endorsements of the publication by international reputable academic experts in the field.

Professor Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History, Kings College, London, said Professor Narsey offers an original and pioneering investigation of how the British state regulated colonial gold, silver and paper as media of exchange, debt, and savings, to create the currency board, at the heart of the British Empire.

Appearing in the fascinating story are 18th century West Indies with gold standards, Keynes’s work on the currency of the Raj, and twentieth-century debates about the colonial money supply and economic development. The book is a valuable addition to the economic history of both the British empire and of globalization,’ he said.

Professor Larry Neal, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaignsaid based on extensive archival research, Professor Narsey shows that imperial priorities took precedence over native desires for economic development in dependent colonies throughout the history of the British Empire.

“This was an undesirable, but fully intended, consequence of imperial financial innovations in the British colonies,” he said.

Professor Wadan Narsey joined USP in 1973, initially taught mathematics and then economics. Thousands of his students are working all over the Pacific as well as in Australia, NZ and Canada.

Professor Narsey was also USP’s Director of Planning and Development between 1993 and 1996, and a member of the Fiji Parliament from 1996 to 1999. He did numerous consultancies for World Bank, donors and regional organizations.  He resigned from USP in 2012.  He has published extensively on poverty, labor markets, gender in the Pacific and the political economy of Fiji. For more than two decades, he has been a regular columnist for the Fiji Times, and now has his personal website NarseyOnFiji.

Professor Wadan is currently Adjunct Professor at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, and at Swinburne University, Australia, and is based in Melbourne.  

He is married to Sin Joan Yee (USP Librarian) who has worked at USP since 1976.

This news item was published on 3 May 2016 01:01:36 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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