Museum Late: An eighteenth-century evening

Join us for an evening looking at the Bank in the eighteenth-century, including a talk on the history of banking and free classical music

About this event

When: 16 November, 5pm to 8pm (last entry 7.30pm)

Step back in time to learn how the Bank of England operated in the 1700s. Join a free talk by Professor Anne Murphy as she discusses her new book ‘Virtuous bankers: a day in the life of the eighteenth-century Bank of England.’

Plus, enjoy a free performance of 18th century music by the Morassi Quartet, musicians from the Royal College of Music.

Musical performance by the Morassi Quartet

5pm to 7.45pm

As you enjoy Sir John Soane’s Stock Office, listen to the music of the Morassi Quartet, an exciting young string quartet formed in 2018 at the Royal College of Music. They will be playing a repertoire of 18th-century music, and songs inspired by the Bank of England’s history. 

Free, drop-in.

Talk: In search of virtuous bankers

6.15pm to 7.15pm

Join Professor Anne Murphy for a free hybrid talk exploring the Bank of England and banking in the eighteenth century. Professor Murphy will examine virtue in the eighteenth-century Bank of England, from the behaviour of employees to the financial system it created and supported.

This talk is free but registration is required. In-person registration is now closed but you can still register to attend online.

Register to attend online


There are few today who link banking with virtue. The common view is of an industry greedy for profits and far too willing to take risks that, when they go wrong, lead to expensive bail outs using taxpayers’ money while the perpetrators walk away with their bonuses intact. The eighteenth-century view of financiers was often no better. The literature of the time was full of stories about greedy, manipulative monied men. High finance was viewed with suspicion and speculative episodes, like the South Sea Bubble of 1720, provoked outrage, much as they do in the twenty-first century.

Nor was the Bank of England immune from such accusations. At this time, it was a private company answerable to its shareholders. It was still far from fully accepting the kind of responsibilities for support of the economy and banking system that characterise its work today. Yet, the directors of the eighteenth-century Bank remained convinced of its value and virtue. They described the institution as the ‘Grand Palladium of Public Credit’ and asserted that it was worthy of ‘religious veneration’. 

This talk will go in search of the virtue that could be found at the eighteenth-century Bank of England. It will explore the behaviour of the clerks and the directors and consider how they viewed their work and their contribution to the economy. It will also consider how the Bank built a financial system that supported the needs of the state.    

About the speaker

Anne Murphy is Professor of History and Deputy Vice Chancellor Education at the University of Portsmouth. Academia is her second career. Her first was in the City trading interest rate and foreign exchange derivatives. Anne’s research focuses on early modern financial markets and investment behaviour, and the organisation and management of financial institutions. She has published extensively on financial, social and economic history in journals such as 'Past and Present', 'Economic History Review', 'History', Financial History Review' and 'Women’s History Review'. 'Virtuous Bankers: a day in the life of the eighteenth-century Bank of England' is her third book and is published by Princeton University Press.

This page was last updated 15 November 2023