The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street: The Bank of England

By Altman, Wilf | Contemporary Review, November 2005 | Go to article overview

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street: The Bank of England


Altman, Wilf, Contemporary Review


CENTRE of international finance, symbol of stability, banker to the British Government and nation, custodian of the currency, guardian of the official reserves of gold and foreign currency, the Bank of England, Britain's central bank, can claim all these roles--some even from the time it was granted a Royal Charter in 1694.

Yet, behind the great trappings and traditions, what has made this world-famous institution such a focus of continued fascination to overseas visitors, to everyone even mildly interested in finance and, of course, to governments and bankers all over the globe? When you think of your local bank, the manager and the people who run it, it becomes even more intriguing to speculate how a vast national bank operates and what sort of man masterminds and rules it.

The most important event in the Bank's recent history has been the new Blair Government's decision in May 1997 to give the Bank independence to set interest rates and the defeat of the Governor last August when his harshest supporters were outmanoeuvred to deliver the cut in interest rates that the stock market hoped for.

Few events in the life of The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, as the Bank of England is affectionately known, are as significant as the appointment of a new Governor.

Just how important the Governor can be in domestic and international finance was well illustrated by Lord Richardson in the latter part of the last century. His ten-year tenure was noted for at least three major achievements: as an influential figure in international central bank diplomacy, notably as Chairman from 1981 of the top nations group of Ten, with a key role in helping tackle the 1982 international debt crisis; his handling of the secondary banking crisis in Britain in 1973-5, when many banks ran into trouble with their balance sheets following the collapse of the property boom; his pressure for more restrictive policies after the inflation in 1975/6.

Not surprisingly, when he retired from the Governorship a series of farewells culminated at 10 Downing Street, where three Prime Ministers and five Chancellors were present at a dinner in his honour.

In the City of London it has become almost conventional to rank Lord Richardson with that most legendary Governor of the interwar years, Montague Norman, still recalled as a handsome, shy and fascinating man with a trim Vandyke beard, probably wrongly judged as the Governor who crucified industry on a cross of gold, by putting Britain back on the gold standard at an exchange rate where it just could not compete in world trade.

The key factor which linked the two men was the authority they brought to the Bank, not only in their City parish, but far beyond.

'To many people', Lord Richardson has pointed out, 'the Bank of England may seem a rather mysterious place. Certainly a building surrounded by a windowless wall is bound to excite curiosity. If I had to sum up what we are about in a few words, I would go back to a phrase used nearly three hundred years ago. The original charter granted to the Bank by King William and Queen Mary in 1694 said that the Bank should 'promote the public Good and Benefit of our People'. Put in modern terms, that is still what we set out to do today--to promote an efficient and healthy financial framework within which all of us in this country can live and conduct our affairs'.

How has the Bank changed since 1694? How is it organised? What does it actually do?

Creating the Bank of England back in 1694 was the first step towards central banking in Britain. It appears that the Government of the day needed money to pay for the war against France and a Scottish merchant, William Paterson, came up with the idea of founding a bank which could lend its capital to the Government. So, in the spring of 1694, Parliament gave its approval to an Act which provided for the setting up of a company splendidly entitled 'The Governor and Company of the Bank of England'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street: The Bank of England
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.