Research Handbook on Central Banking
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Research Handbook on Central Banking

Edited by Peter Conti-Brown and Rosa M. Lastra

Central banks occupy a unique space in their national governments and in the global economy. The study of central banking however, has too often been dominated by an abstract theoretical approach that fails to grasp central banks’ institutional nuances. This comprehensive and insightful Handbook, takes a wider angle on central banks and central banking, focusing on the institutions of central banking. By 'institutions', Peter Conti-Brown and Rosa Lastra refer to the laws, traditions, norms, and rules used to structure central bank organisations. The Research Handbook on Central Banking’s institutional approach is one of the most interdisciplinary efforts to consider its topic, and includes chapters from leading and rising central bankers, economists, lawyers, legal scholars, political scientists, historians, and others.
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Chapter 3: The development of the Bank of England’s objectives: evolution, instruction or reaction?

Forrest Capie and Geoffrey Wood


In this chapter we examine how the Bank of England’s objectives emerged through a mix of evolution, instruction, and reaction. All three were involved. The monetary objective evolved from the Bank’s initial obligation to be able to convert its notes into gold on demand. This was formalised in 1844, and thereafter the numerous changes did no more than change the form of the monetary objective. The financial stability objective was adopted by the Bank in response to outside argument and the pressure of events; but it had from time to time stabilised the system before that, on an ad hoc basis and without formal explanation or justification. It then drifted into being involved in the workings of the banks that comprised the British banking system, and then through legislation acquired increasingly formal and detailed responsibilities for the conduct of these banks. A further complication must be added. The ideas that guided the Bank’s actions may appear to have come from the private sector or government, but there was often discussion and a flow of ideas between Bank, government, and private sector, before a mutually satisfactory conclusion and policy was reached.

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