The Bank of England and Lancashire Cotton

           While increased state involvement in industrial affairs in Europe is typically identified as a defining feature of economic reality in the years after the Second World War, this involvement was a continuation of economic policies pursued by pre-war governments. Further, it wasn’t only ministers and bureaucrats that increasingly organized industry, but central banks as well.

Crédit Foncier and the Renovation of Paris

           Expensive ventures often entail borrowing money and the banking system is one of the largest and most accessible lenders around. Their role in financing grand projects give banks the ability to make or break the dreams of developers, entrepreneurs, and even governments. Because the latter can approve, form, and regulate banks, governments are in the

The Foreign and Colonial Government Trust

           While the 17th and 18th centuries saw the development of new financial institutions, with banks, insurance companies, and exchanges sprouting up, especially in Britain, these inventions generally served the financial needs of relatively few. It was the 19th century when they began to serve even ordinary people, or at least the growing middle classes, in

Webster, Wallace, and Scottish Widows

           The 18th century was a formative one in the history of insurance. In Britain in particular, insurance was increasingly being sold by specialized firms, rather than by underwriters operating independently or in syndicates. In this way and others, over the course of the century, the industry developed to become more recognizable to modern eyes. In

Swiss Banks and Secrecy

           For a small country, Switzerland punches above its weight in banking. This has largely been attributed to bank secrecy rules that make Swiss banks particularly useful to some. Over the past century, the country’s banking sector has been associated with secrecy, accused of facilitating tax evasion and other crimes. While a professional standard in banking

The Charitable Corporation Scandal

           Britain’s ‘Financial Revolution’ is usually best known for its fiscal and market effects. However, it also coincided with changing opinions towards consumer credit. By the early 18th century, borrowing and lending was accepted as a fact of life that was best tolerated rather than regulated out of existence. One attempt at improving the terms upon

Pawnbrokers and the 18th Century Poor

           While credit may hardly be considered unavailable to the poor in wealthy countries today, it’s easy to think it only became so accessible in recent times. In truth, though there will generally be more eager lenders to the rich than to the poor, and while the forms of credit available to the latter have changed,

London, Antwerp, and Sir Thomas Gresham

           London developed into a financial center in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sir Thomas Gresham, a 16th century merchant and royal financial agent, had some part in making this so. His leading role in establishing the Royal Exchange is well known and lends evidence to this view but that was just a part of his

Raiffeisen and the Rural Credit Union

           While they had existed for centuries before, it was during the 19th century that access to banks was extended to virtually all classes. In Europe and America, new types of banks were formed, including credit unions, that sought to provide dependable financial services to ordinary people. The first of these credit unions were formed in

English Usury Law and its Abolition

           Whether usury laws stunted the growth of finance, especially in early modern Europe, is a question that causes much disagreement. The degree of enforcement of these laws may have had some impact on the level of financial development in different parts of Europe but it would be difficult to argue that usury laws stifled all

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