The Bank of England and the genesis of modern management
Murphy, Anne L.
In 1965 Sidney Pollard published The Genesis of Modern Management, an extended discussion of the problems, during Britain’s initial period of industrialisation, of the ‘internal management’ of the firm. But, in his focus on industry, Pollard ignored one of the largest, most significant and most innovative of the enterprises of the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth centuries: The Bank of England. This paper focuses on the Bank as a site of precocious managerial development. It first establishes that the Bank, by the latter part of the eighteenth century, encompassed the complexities of a large-scale industrial enterprise. It employed a workforce of several hundred. Its workers operated in specialised and coordinated capacities. Its managerial hierarchy was diffuse and dependent on employed men, rather than the elected directorate. The Bank, therefore, warrants comparison with the types of enterprises identified by Pollard. Focusing on the 1780s, the paper then explores the Bank’s organisational and management structure against Pollard’s four aspects of management: ‘the creation and training of a class of managers; ‘the recruitment, training, disciplining and acculturation of labour’; the use of ‘accountancy, and other information …in the rational determination of their decisions’ and finally the question of whether there emerged a ‘theory and practice of “management”’. It will demonstrate that, although not always applied effectively, the Bank’s senior men did show managerial innovation and skill in training and organising the workforce and were able to make informed decisions which had the potential to improve some of the Bank’s processes.