Book Review Essay: Making a Modern Central Bank: The Bank of England 1979-2003, by Harold James, Cambridge University Press 2020, 543 pages.


  • William A. Allen National Institute of Economic and Social Research


Bank of England; Harold James; official history


Writers about the past fall into two categories. Historians like Harold James, the latest official historian of the Bank of England, are, if you like, members of the jury at the court of history. They have access to all the evidence that endures, above all written records. This reviewer, by contrast, was a witness to some of the events, having worked for the Bank of England throughout the period that the book chronicles. Readers should bear in mind that witnesses suffer from memory failures and prejudices; however they may remember things that weren’t recorded, and they have generally had a long time to think about what happened. This review is mainly about what I observed and remember. There is a lot in the book that I didn’t know, which supports James’ contention that internal communication in the Bank of England was not always extensive.