Central Banks – An Edited Collection

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By Ursula Kampmann
Translated by Leonie Schulze

June 7, 2018 – You hear about central banks and their actions on the news all the time. Historians, however, rarely pay any attention to them. With the possible exception of the Bank of England, they only become a matter of interest if their policies negatively affect the economy or political situation of a country. On occasion of their 350th anniversary, the Sveriges Riksbank has now turned the history of central banks into an edited volume featuring articles written by some of the most well-known economic historians. It encompasses the history of the central banks of Sweden (founded in 1668), England (1694), Spain (1782), France (1800), the Netherlands (1814), Norway (1816), Italy (1861), Japan (1882), the United States (1913), Germany (1948), China (1948) and Europe (1999).

Rodney Edvinsson, Tor Jacobson, Daniel Waldenström (Ed.): Sveriges Riksbank and the History of Central Banking. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018. 507 pages, 15,7 x 23,3 cm. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-107-19310-9. GBP 85.

This historical analysis aims to explain why we need central banks in the first place. Keep in mind that until the 20th century, political institutions or the private financial sector did a lot of the work which nowadays central banks are responsible for. Consequently, the establishment of a central bank was often the result of some sort of crisis.

You shouldn’t expect this anniversary edition to be of the same kind as the elaborately illustrated publications, containing mostly catchphrases, often bestowed on customers by banks and insurance companies whenever they celebrate an anniversary. Instead of pictures, you will find an array of excellent economic articles and tables so complex that it requires quite a lot of concentration to understand merely half of it.

This is by no means a light fare. Nevertheless: the historian in me rejoices over the acknowledgement of the value of history that the Sveriges Riksbank advocates with this publication. It was different some ten or twenty years ago, but it appears as though learning from history has now ceased to be frowned upon. It is truly remarkable that any central bank should promote a purely academic book about its own history so prominently.

The book can be purchased at Cambridge University Press.

You can read an interview about this recent publication here.

If you know some Swedish, this movie will allow you to learn more about the Swedish Rijksbank.