Bank of England

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Bank of England

Bank of England, central bank and note-issuing institution of Great Britain. Popularly known as the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, its main office stands on the street of that name in London. The bank has eight branches, all of which are located in the British Isles. Although Bank of England notes are legal tender throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland also issue notes that may be either used as currency themselves or exchanged for Bank of England issues. In all matters beside note issue, the Bank of England has sole central banking functions in Great Britain. The affairs of the bank are controlled by a governor, a deputy, and 16 directors.

It was founded (1694) as a commercial bank by William Paterson with a capital of £1.2 million, which was advanced to the government in return for banking privileges, including the right to issue notes up to the amount of its capital. In 1709 the capital was doubled; the charter was renewed in 1742, 1764, and 1781. The bank's facilities proved a great asset in English commercial, and later industrial, expansion. The bank's functions were both public and private; it safeguarded the English pound and also operated for private profit. Efficient regulation was assured by the Bank Charter Act of 1844, which laid the basis for the bank's modern structure. The issue department, which handles the issuing of bank notes for general circulation, was separated from the banking department, which handles the remaining banking functions, including the management of the public debt, and serves as the depository of government funds and as the staple bank of England. It was privately owned until 1946, when an act of Parliament provided for its nationalization. The stockholders were compensated, and the bank subsequently dropped virtually all its private business. In 1997 the bank was given the power to set interest rates, a function formerly performed by the cabinet; at the same time its oversight of the British banking industry was transferred to the Securities and Investments Board.


See J. H. Clapham, The Bank of England: A History (2 vol., 1944; repr. 1966); J. Giuseppi, The Bank of England (1966); R. S. Sayres, The Bank of England, 1891–1944 (1976, repr. 1986); R. Roberts and D. Kynaston, ed., The Bank of England: Money, Power, and Influence 1694–1994 (1995); F. Capie The Bank of England, 1950s to 1979 (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bank of England


the central bank of emission of Great Britain. Founded in 1694 as a private joint-stock bank, it was granted the right to issue banknotes along with several other of the nation’s private banks. The initial capital of the bank was £1.2 million and belonged to a group of private individuals, mainly owners of the largest banking houses. Subsequently, the capital was increased to£ 14.5 million. The Bank of England was turned into the basic emission institution, the financial center of the nation, and the bank of banks and of the state. Prior to World War I (1914–18), the banknotes of the Bank of England were exchangeable for gold.

In 1946 the Labour government nationalized the Bank of England. The shareholders received compensation in the form of government bonds bearing 12 percent return per annum—as much as the dividends had provided prior to nationalization.

The Bank of England makes fiduciary (not covered by gold) emissions within the limit of amounts periodically set by Parliament. It finances the government, provides budget fulfillment in cash terms, and keeps the reserves of the English and many foreign central banks. With the latter it acts as a correspondent, and it also serves as the central clearing organization for the banks of the nation. It exercises foreign exchange control in accord with foreign exchange legislation. The tasks of the Bank of England also include supervision of the credit activity of the banks and regulation of the money market by changing the discount rate and so-called open market operations.

The manager and directors of the Bank of England are appointed by the government. In 1959 the bank had eight branches in England. The total monetary emission of the Bank of England fully covered by securities in July 1969 was £3,340 million, in comparison with£2,248 million in 1960, £1,326 million in 1950, and£1,402 million in 1946.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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