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. Examination of those clients’ collective identity and experience can offer new insights which extend beyond the confines of banking history, touching on questions of trust, reputation, character, risk, prudence and security. 
This paper forms part of my doctoral research, which focuses on the agency of banking clients between the Restoration and the 1780s and seeks to identify trends over time in the composition of the banks’ clientele and how those clients accessed and shaped the emerging services of bankers. I am combining analysis at the macro scale, using a large dataset derived from bank client account ledgers, and the micro scale, comprising client case studies based on individual client bank account records and their personal papers. My research assesses how client behaviour was shaped by social, familial, political, economic, occupational and geographical factors and networks. My thesis will examine whether over the period of study there was a shift in client-banker engagement from primarily personal relationships of obligation, based on character and mutual trust, to more formal and contractual interactions.
This paper presents an analysis and comparison of client engagement with London’s banks at both the beginning and the end of the period of my study, focusing primarily on the years 1672 and 1780 and with a particular emphasis on client borrowing. It demonstrates that in both Restoration and mid Georgian England there was no such thing as a typical bank client, and that clients approached banks with needs which varied widely both in nature and scale. The paper also offers some initial conclusions on changes and continuities in the nature of client-banker engagement.

Financial literacy, Trust, Obligation, Reputation, Character


I am a 3rd year PhD student at the Institute of Historical Research in London. I have returned to academic life after a career as an archivist, and my historical interests include  social, cultural and financial history in the early modern period.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.