On the 12th June, Threadgold Press is very proud to be releasing a book outside its usual genre. This book is scholarly, genuinely readable and historically important.In the twentieth century men from the Midland Bank travelled the world to try and understand how overseas centres of finance and industry functioned, to promote their business and meet their counterparts in other countries.
They were inquisitive, openminded and energetic. They sent back reports from Chicago, New Orleans, Montreal, St Petersburg, Vienna, Stockholm, Paris, Tokyo, Prague, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires and many, many other cities. They had an uncanny knack of fetching up in these centres at moments of high drama. And they reported back in detail and without political allegiance.
These reports are available for study in the archives of HSBC in London. Calling London set these reports into historical context with fascinating extracts along the way.
Calling London: Travels by British Bankers, 1904-63
The back cover says:
There is hardly a happening in the world that does not have its repercussions, immediately or eventually, on Overseas Branch. Midland Venture, 1933
From 1904 to the 1960s managers of the Midland Bank in London travelled the world to visit centres of finance and industry and then report back. They often arrived, by chance or intention, at crucial moments in history – Russia in 1909, Austria in 1931, France in 1944, Chile and Japan 1948 and for example Germany in 1933:
Dr. Fischer was careful to explain to me, quite irrelevantly, that Hitler was a most peaceable and peace-loving man to whom war-like intentions were entirely foreign… W.F. Crick, Berlin, 1933
In a scholarly, informative and fascinating account, Edwin Green sets this rich resource in historical context. While Calling London throws light on local conditions in some serious times, it also includes delightful insights into how British Bankers were seen abroad:
Mr. Holden is no dreamer. The way he hands out a cigar is suggestive of the rapier. Toronto News, 23 September, 1904
Edwin Green was appointed as the Midland Bank’s first archivist in 1974. From 1993 until his retirement in 2007 he was group Archivist at HSBC in London, where the records of the Midland’s Overseas Branch are located. He is the author and co-author of many publications on banking and business history, including histories of the Midland Bank, The Mercantile Bank of India and the Institute of Bankers. He is uniquely placed to guide future researchers to this gold mine of twentieth century business archives.
From 12 June book will be available directly from Threadgold Press (pensioners and staff get a reduced rate) or from Amazon.
In case you think a gremlin has taken over my blog… here are some peonies.
Saved by a peony
Such a book ought to be fascinating – but I do prefer the peonies ……..
It really is interesting, but I will admit that it is a specialist book for researchers and historians of the 20th century.
Pardon me for asking. Any relative of yours, Hilary? It has to be. The peonies are beautiful. Did you get warm weather yesterday? It was +24c in The Netherlands.
Yes indeed, Edwin is my husband… 40th wedding anniversary this September. He is shy and wouldn’t let me put his picture on the blog.
Our weather has at last eased up, the frosts have gone, but it’s still not as warm as early March! I planted out the the runner beans today.
It does pique my interest, I being a middling banker. Thanks for the peonies. God knows, I could use some.
The book is a great piece of research and world history, particularly useful for someone researching the last century, but definitely a specialist subject. Peonies like these give us perspective.
“There is hardly a happening in the world that does not have its repercussions, immediately or eventually,” That is so true.
The amazing thing is that these guys would roll up and take the temperature of places at astonishing times. They went to Paris in 1944 to see how local bankers had coped with the occupation – French bankers had used brilliant and funny ploys to outwit the German determination to empty the coffers. They went to Tokyo in 1948 to re-establish banking relations with the Japanese banks. It’s like the science communities today, the common understanding overrides narrow nationalism.
Wars are always started by a few. (IMO) Isn’t that your findings as well in your research?
Indeed, the desire for power in certain individuals is extremely influential in this context. This desire in these individuals gathers both followers and rivals and clashes become inevitable.
Love the peonies – mine aren’t anywhere near to being out yet.
It is, but a bit specialist. These are tree peonies they are more than a month ahead of the normal ones. I am nutty about the scale of these, they feel as though they belong on Victorian wallpaper not real life.
Fascinating! I did a Diploma in Export Management with a fellow who had been sent out to Australia by the HSBC back in the early 80s. We had to submit a combined marketing report on whatever. I think he was here to see what opportunities would be presented by Australia deregulating the dollar and unpegging it from the trade-weighted index. I don’t suppose Edwin knows his way around the UK National Archives website by any chance? I am looking for a bankruptcy in the 1870s. I have the London Gazette notice if he can offer a helping hand. It would be greatly appreciated. All the best with the book launch!
Hi Gwendoline, can you give us a name, or email a copy of the Gazette notice to threadgoldpressATwaitroseDOTcom? If it is a bank we may be able to make progress, or at least move the inquiry forward. I actually gave a talk at the National Archives last year (on my Far East POW book) and an old friend and colleague of Edwin’s works there. You may not hear anything back from us immediately as we are travelling some of the time.
Thanks so much. I have sent an explanatory email. Much obliged, Gwen
On my wish list. Bankers are odd and resilient people. We had a chap who was our CEO in Afghanistan – ran marathons. He couldn’t train in Kabul so he set up a jogging course inside his house. He was one of a group of older chaps who would go anywhere. Never thought about the risks. Just loves the challenge. Frontier banking I guess you would call it. Some of their file notes made hilarious reading.
I agree about the bankers. For the most part the men who travelled the world for the Midland were not from the establishment or privileged classes, but men who had worked they way up through the banking system and achieved seniority because of their individual skills, enterprise and work ethic.
You might also enjoy a book which was privately published by HSBC, but there are second-hand copies on Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/companions-Wives-Families-History-Group/1857570839. This is an oral history using interviews with the wives of HSBC overseas bankers in the last century. Their adventures are astonishing, including internment in WWII, and hilarious in parts.
That sounds well worth reading. And our people were also by and large from ordinary life with no privileges. The trappings of expat life no doubt helped but they tackled pretty much everything.
I remember reading some social psychology experiments in which individuals were randomly assigned to leadership roles in organisations or to carry out a task. This almost always resulted in the individual rising to the challenge and being able to carry forward new-found skills thereafter.
A fascinating book.
How come I never saw this post? it’s great! Thank you for sharing, Hilary.
Thanks. Life has too many things to offer! I hope your children’s book will be available in the UK when it comes out.