Comparing financial integration in Britain and France (also 4 ways types of financial history)

I just came across this lecture series organised by State Bank of Pakistan (celebrating its 70 years) in the memory of Zahid Husain, the first Governor of the bank. Quite interesting set of speakers since 1975.

The sixth lecture was given by Prof Charles Kindleberger and needless to say it a is a superb read. Prof Kindleberger discusses how financial integration differed in Britain (where finance picked up) compared to France (where it remained limited to Paris).

He points to this interesting work by Charles Jones who said there are 4 ways to write financial history:

  • Orthodox: The problem through time is to curb the tendency to overissue banknotes or overlend.  So, you will ahve authorities rising from time to time to curb this tendency. This leads to rise of a central authority such as a central bank who monpolises banknotes and regulates the credit system.
  • Heroic: Starting a particular innovation or institution which leads to manifold rise in financial activity. Like the industrial banks in India or mortgage markets and so on.
  • Populist: Opposite of orthodox where there is opposition to this centralisation and support for financial activity outside the major centre. This is especially true in case of US where there was support for so called wildcat banking despite its flaws.
  • Statist: This holds that banks were created to serve the needs of the State/Government. Jones mentioned that central banks in Canada, Australia and Argentina fit in this category.

Prof Kindleberger adds that these histories do not remain static and one keeps moving from one form to another. For instance central banks in both England and France started for Statist reasons but then diverged. Bank of England became more orthodox as it tried to curb adventurous financial activity outside of London. Whereas in Paris, there were elements of both Orthodoxy and Populism.

Just fascinating way to categorise research on financial history. Even the whole discussion on financial history of Britain and France is worth a read..

 

 

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