Mr Brown called for a global regulatory system to prevent further problems
Gordon Brown says there is no precedent for the "first financial crisis of the global age".
History offered "no clear map" of how to deal with it, the UK prime minister told an audience at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.
Mr Brown warned about the rising threat of protectionism and said that global co-operation was the only way forward.
"This is not like the 1930s. The world can come together," the prime minister said.
He told reporters: "This is the first financial crisis of the global age. And there is no clear map that has been set out from past experience to deal with it.
"I'm reminded of the story of Titian, who's the great painter, who reached the age of 90, finished the last of his nearly 100 brilliant paintings, and he said at the end of it, 'I'm finally beginning to learn how to paint', and that is where we are.
"We're learning all the time about how to deal with what are real problems for which we have no historical analogies to fall back on, because when the 1930s problems hit them, they did not have the global financial markets that we have today."
This is a global banking crisis and you've got to deal with it for what it is, a global banking crisis
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