TILL TIME'S LAST SAND by David Kynaston

TILL TIME'S LAST SAND

A History of the Bank of England 1694-2013
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Social historian Kynaston (Modernity Britain: 1957-1962, 2014, etc.) moves into fiscal realms with this overstuffed history of one of the world’s most important financial institutions.

The Bank of England, writes the author, was chartered on June 21, 1694, with then-staggering starting financing of 300,000 pounds, some of it provided by King William and Queen Mary. Democratically, Kynaston notes, even the royals were limited to the top investment of 10,000 pounds apiece; other investors were businessmen, among them a clockmaker and an apothecary. The bank was founded by three visionaries, one of them “a projector,” a speculator more interested in his own profit than in the success of the enterprise as a whole but still far-seeing enough to help put together a bank of credit of a kind more ambitious than any London had seen before—and, by extension, more ambitious than any in the world at the time. Other nations would develop similar institutions, which evolved into central banks. In closing his long history, the author notes that the very idea of a central bank is now under siege and that “their extinction cannot be ruled out,” while holding out the prospect that somehow the Bank of England will evolve to meet conditions as it has in the past. Though with no shortage of discussion of financial instruments, fiscal policy, and economic crises and turning points, Kynaston’s account is full of people as well—e.g., John Horsley Palmer, who was adamant in requiring that the bank actually be able to cover its loans with gold holdings, and Thomas Catto, who broke with John Maynard Keynes at just about the time the bank was nationalized (Catto never used that term, saying, “ ‘Public ownership’ sounds so much better”). Kynaston closes at the time the bank was emerging from the devastating financial crisis of a decade ago, so the effects of Brexit will have to await a revised edition.

For finance wonks, a good-as-gold tome as imposing as the institution it covers—and with every promise of enduring accordingly.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4088-6856-0
Page count: 896pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2017




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