Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Virtuous Bankers: A Day in the Life of the Eighteenth-Century Bank of England (Anne Murphy)

The Bank of England was established as a private business in the 17th Century and operated as such until the 1940’s when it was nationalized. For centuries, the bank operated for the benefit of its shareholders and customers but became, much like the banks in the United States, an enterprise that was a great economic engine for Great Britain. But just what was a day in the life in the 18th Century Bank of England like? Anne Murphy shows us how this burgeoning financial institution operated in Virtuous Bankers: A Day in the Life of the Eighteenth-Century Bank of England.

Murphy discusses the various roles of bank employees - tellers, clerks, plate printers, and trustees - over the course of a typical bank day in 1783 or 1784. Much of this book is sourced on the notes from a Committee of Inspection that examined the bank’s finances and its operations in this timeframe, shaping a “day in the life” of banking activities.

Besides the basic financial roles of bank employees during the day, night watchmen patrolled the bank after hours and of course, someone had to clean up after the various horses and humans that needed to use the facilities outside of the bank during the day. Eighteenth-Century London certainly lacked the cleanliness and charm that it has today; however, it had all of the financial importance and hustle of a major global city. The Bank of England played a critical role in financing Britain’s growth, and Murphy captures how the bank operated over 200 years in great detail. Virtuous Bankers is a great read for anyone with a financial and history inclination.