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.