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  • Cited by 11
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2020
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Book description

Making a Modern Central Bank examines a revolution in monetary and economic policy. This authoritative guide explores how the Bank of England shifted its traditional mechanisms to accommodate a newly internationalized financial and economic system. The Bank's transformation into a modern inflation-targeting independent central bank allowed it to focus on a precisely defined task of monetary management, ensuring price stability. The reframing of the task of central banks, however, left them increasingly vulnerable to financial crisis. James vividly outlines and discusses significant historical developments in UK monetary policy, and his knowledge of modern European history adds rich context to archival research on the Bank of England's internal documents. A worthy continuation of the previous official histories of the Bank of England, this book also reckons with contemporary issues, shedding light on the origins of growing backlash against globalization and the European Union.


‘In 1979, as Harold James remarks, ‘there was no way of really knowing what the Bank of England was supposed to do'. But by 2003, the Bank seemed remade as a Modern Central Bank, with one core objective – to hit the inflation target defined by statute. In this insightful and lucidly written book, James explains the complex interplay of economic, financial and intellectual developments which led from the confused opacity of the 1970s to the apparent clarity of the early 2000s. And in a brilliant epilogue, he explores how confidence in the new philosophy melted in the face of the 2007-08 financial crisis. Anyone seeking to understand the still unresolved challenge of delivering monetary and financial stability in a modern economy should read this book.'

Lord Adair Turner - former Chair of UK Financial Services Authority

‘In this authoritative and judicious account, a distinguished historian explains how profoundly the Bank of England was changed and updated between 1979 and the early 2000s. The transformation he describes, towards a transparent, professional and independent central bank, was indeed essential. But, as the financial crisis and now the rise of digital money make clear, that was not the end of history. Central banks have to adapt to constant changes in the demands upon them and the world around them. The Bank of England is and always will be a work in progress.'

Martin Wolf - Financial Times

‘Harold James's book tells the tale of the transformation of the Bank of England from its historical image as the most stately of central banks to its present reality as one of the most modern, efficient and impressive of the leading central banks. This book describes in interesting detail the reforms following the Bank's independence.'

Stanley Fischer - BlackRock

‘It is not an easy book, but the author handsomely rewards everyone who has read it. Of course, even minimal knowledge of Britain's modern economic history makes reading easier. But the book is not only intended for lovers of economic history. Anyone interested in economics (even students) will benefit a lot from it, because the author has a great deal of economic knowledge. The book thus helps to consolidate theoretical knowledge. And all this is due to the detailed description of transplanting many economic trends into the British soil.’

Pawel Kowalewski Source: Obserwator Finansowy

‘James has written a fascinating history of the Bank of England during a tumultuous period of policy-making … benefits from access to internal memos and reports, as well as interviews with many of the key players … ranges over the BOE’s involvement in financial supervision as well as its role in promoting the City of London.’

Harold James Source: America Social Sciences

‘Scholars of economic policy in late-twentieth century Britain, and of the comparative history of central banks, must engage with this book.’

John Singleton Source: EH.Net

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