The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has been waiting for a biographer who could do justice to the richness of her story. Scholarly volumes by Sir John Clapham and R S Sayers, covering her first 250 years, gather dust on library shelves. Forrest Capie’s chronicle of the postwar era, published in 2010, was long on macroeconomics but short on personalities. Stephen Fay’s Portrait of an Old Lady (1987) was a sharp sketch of the crises of the 1970s and 1980s; Dan Conaghan’s The Bank (2012) was a swipe at the recent governorship of Mervyn King; and King’s own The End of Alchemy (2016) was a riposte to his critics in the form of an extended tutorial on the fundamentals of central banking.
All of these form a substantial body of work but leave ample room on the shelf for this new book by David Kynaston, doyen of British financial historians. His four-volume, 3,000-page history of London’s Square Mile from 1815 to 2000 was, I wrote in these pages, ‘as complete and as