You are here:

The story of the development of banking in Britain has mostly been framed as the history of banks and bankers. Yet banks could not have emerged and developed without clients whose financial needs they could meet. This paper seeks to answer the following questions: who were those clients, and how, and how far, did they use London’s banks to meet their financial needs? The paper will also attempt to determine whether changes in client behaviour were shaped by clients or bankers.
The paper will identify trends over time in both the composition of the banks’ clientele and the ways in which those clients accessed and shaped the emerging services of bankers. It will situate these findings in the context of wider social and economic developments of the period, and with particular reference to recent studies of banking and investment.

The main sources for my research are the customer account ledgers of selected London banks, primarily the capital’s ‘West End’ banks. These records are used to construct three core datasets, for the 1670s, 1730s and 1780s, containing metrics at client account level for account balances, turnover and activity levels, and recording in detail client borrowing and investment. The datasets support a comparison, between banks and over time, of the composition of the banks’ clientele and clients’ use of bank services. Other bank records, including client correspondence, are used alongside personal papers of bank clients to investigate in more detail the nature of client-banker engagement, including the study of selected client accounts over time. The paper will use case studies to supplement and highlight some of the statistical findings.  

The paper will show that while each bank attracted somewhat different groups of clients, on the whole the banks’ clientele expanded by the inclusion of an increasing number of the wealthier middling sort. The paper will argue that by the early 1730s the main forms of client engagement were largely fixed for the remainder of the 18th century, and that the principal transformation in client banking in London after 1730 was one of scale. The paper will suggest that the development of banking services was driven both by clients and by bankers.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.

The session will start at the slightly later time of 17:30.