The First World War, the City of London, and Globalization

25 05 2014


History and Policy, the London-based historical think tank, recently hosted an event at which the impact of the First World War on international finance n was discussed. George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e., Finance Minister), was present. Professor Richard Roberts spoke about ‘The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 – Then and Now’ at an event on 20 May 2014. The event was held at No. 11 Downing Street, the seminar was part of a series about the Treasury and the First World War.


Richard Roberts is Professor of Contemporary History at the Institute of Contemporary British History at King’s College London. His new book, Saving the City: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914, is published by OUP.  Richard will also be presenting some related research at workshop I have organised called Armageddon and Mammon: the Impact of the First World War on
International Business. This workshop will take place on Thursday 10 July and Friday 11 July 2014 at East India House in the City of London (closest tube station is Liverpool Street).  I have pasted the programme below.

The historical research presented at this workshop should interest many non-historians because the world economy on the eve for the First World War resembles in the present. The world economy in 1914 was highly globalized and interconnected. Britain and Germany were each other’s largest trading partners. There was massive cross-border investment and international financial activity was extensive. The globalized economy was suddenly disrupted by the rupture between the Great Powers, as trade with enemy countries suddenly became illegal. The rapid de-globalization of the world economy caused economic chaos but also opportunities for some companies. The recent imposition of some trade sanctions on Russia gives us reasons to think about what the impact of a major war on our interconnected world economy would be like. Looking at the historical record can help us to make sense of the situation.

Non-presenters, including journalists, are welcome to attend, but should RSVP at least 48 hours in advance. They should do so by emailing

Thursday 10 July 

9:00-9:15 Welcome Message:  Neil Forbes, Coventry University

9:15-9:30 Opening Remarks: Andrew Smith, Simon Mollan, Kevin Tennent

9:30-11:00 Session 1:  Science, Technology, and Business at War

Wartime scents: the First World War and the modern perfume industry (Galina Shyndriayeva). Commentator:   Rory Miller

The Essential French Connection: Comptoir des textiles artificial and the Movement of Du Pont from Military to Consumer Products Development, 1916-1939 (Jacqueline McGlade)  Commentator:   Neil Pyper

Taming the War Octopus, 1915-1921: Labour Dilution, Scientific Management, and the impact of the Ministry of Munitions on Interwar British Manufacturing (Michael Weatherburn) Commentator:   John Singleton

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:15 Session 2 The City of London At War

The 1914 moratoriums: banks, business, government and financial crisis management  (Richard Roberts) Commentator:   Neil Forbes

Rock Bottom? Just when they think it’s all over! Rothschild  and the Royal Mint Refinery (Michele Blagg) Commentator:   John Singleton

12:15-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:30 Session 3: Profiting from Neutrality

Setting sail for an uncertain future Three Dutch steamship companies and the First World War, 1914-1918 (Samuël Kruizinga) [via teleconference] Commentator:   Neil Forbes

Enhancing the neutrals: Organizational change of Swiss and Dutch multinationals as a result of the First World War (Takafumi Kurosawa, Ben Wubs) Commentator:   John Singleton

The Impact of the First World War on Swedish Economic  Performance: a Case Study of the Ball Bearings Manufacturer SKF (Eric Golson and Jason Lennard) Commentator:  Dr Neil Pyper

2:30-2:45 Coffee Break

3:15:5:15  Session 4: The Impact of the War on Developing Countries

Global finance, trade and war: the influence of the First World War on investments on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, 1914-1920 (Grietjie Verhoef) Commentator:  Neil Forbes

Profiting despite the Great War:  Argentina’s grain multinationals (Phillip Dehne) Commentator:  Neil Pyper

The impact of the First World War on British investment in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Simon Mollan and Kevin Tennent)  Commentator:  John Singleton

Trading With the Enemy: HSBC’s Relationships with German Companies during the First World War (Andrew Smith) Commentator:  Chris Kobrak

Friday 11 July2014,

9:00-10:00 Session 5: Post-War Reconstruction

 American Big Business and the Attempt to Reconstruct War-Torn Western Europe in 1918-1920 (Volker Berghahn) Commentator:  Chris Kobrak

Mammon Unbound: The International Financial               Architecture of Wall Street Banks, 1915-1925 (Trevin Stratton) Commentator:  Rory Miller

Germany’s Sonderweg in Corporate Development in Comparative Perspective: the effects of the European “civil war” of 1914-45 (Leslie Hannah) Commentator:  Chris Kobrak

10:00-10:15 Coffee Break

10:15-12:00 Session 6: Legacies

The Great War: Matrix of the International Chamber of Commerce, a fortunate Business League of Nations (Clotilde Druelle-Korn)  Commentator: 

Imperial Business at War: The British Imperial Council of Commerce, the Great War, and the Empire, 1914-1918 (Andrew Dilley) Commentator:  John Singleton

The Flows of International Finance after the First World War: the Bank of England and Hungary, 1920 – 1939 (Neil Forbes) Commentator:  Chris Kobrak





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