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Danger to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street? The Bank Restriction Act and the Regime Shift to Paper Money, 1797-1821

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  • Patrick K. O’Brien
  • Nuno Palma

Abstract

The Bank Restriction Act of 1797 made legal the Bank of England’s suspension of the convertibility of its banknotes. The current historical consensus is that it was a result of the state's need to finance the war, France’s remonetisation, a loss of confidence in the English country banks, and a run on the Bank of England’s reserves. We argue that while these factors help us understand the timing of the Restriction period, they cannot explain its success. We deploy new long-term data which leads us to a complementary explanation: the policy succeeded thanks to the reputation of the Bank of England, achieved through a century of monetary stability.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick K. O’Brien & Nuno Palma, 2016. "Danger to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street? The Bank Restriction Act and the Regime Shift to Paper Money, 1797-1821," Working Papers 67, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research, revised Oct 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgs:wpaper:67
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    File URL: http://webspace.qmul.ac.uk/pmartins/CGRWP67.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nuno Palma, 2018. "Reconstruction of money supply over the long run: the case of England, 1270–1870," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 373-392, May.
    2. Philip Garnett & Simon Mollan & R. Alexander Bentley, 2017. "Banks, births, and tipping points in the historical demography of British banking: A response to J.J. Bissell," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 59(5), pages 814-820, July.
    3. O'Brien, Patrick Karl & Palma, Nuno, 2020. "Not an ordinary bank but a great engine of state: The Bank of England and the British economy, 1694-1844," eabh Papers 20-03, The European Association for Banking and Financial History (EABH).
    4. Mike Anson & David Bholat & Miao Kang & Ryland Thomas, 2017. "The Bank of England as Lender of Last Resort: New historical evidence from daily transactional data," Working Papers 0117, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    5. Irigoin, Alejandra, 2018. "Global silver: Bullion or Specie? Supply and demand in the making of the early modern global economy," MPRA Paper 88859, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Nuno Palma, 2019. "The Real Effects of Monetary Expansions: Evidence from a Large-Scale Historical Natural Experiment," Economics Discussion Paper Series 1904, Economics, The University of Manchester, revised Aug 2021.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bank of England; financial revolution; fiat money; money supply; monetary policy commitment; reputation; and time-consistency; regime shift; financial sector growth;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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