© 2018

From Crisis to Crisis

The Transformation of Merchant Banking, 1914–1939


Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance book series (PSHF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 1-39
  3. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 41-79
  4. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 81-107
  5. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 109-138
  6. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 139-162
  7. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 163-188
  8. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 189-223
  9. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 225-249
  10. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 251-284
  11. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 285-328
  12. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 329-351
  13. Brian O’Sullivan
    Pages 353-360
  14. Back Matter
    Pages 361-410

About this book


From Crisis to Crisis examines the impact of the harsh conditions of the interwar economy on the British merchant banks.  The financial crises of 1914 and 1931 are assessed using primary sources. The competitive threats, including the rise of New York as a rival financial centre, are considered. It challenges alleged special treatment and provides fresh perspectives on the interwar rationalisation of industry. 

During the late nineteenth century, Britain’s merchant banks had become pre-eminent in a world of fixed exchange rates, free trade and the unfettered mobility of international capital. This world was increasingly challenged in the interwar period, being replaced by floating exchange rates, trade protectionism and restrictions on capital movements.

This book fills a gap in the historiography of British banking by recovering the histories of long-forgotten merchant banks rather than focusing on the better-known firms. Using a wide range of archival resources, it traces the strategic transformation by some merchant banks from higher-risk, capital intensive activities to lower-risk, advisory services. 


Merchant Banking financial institutions financial history merchant banks Financial Crisis Long-term finance Insular Capitalism British Overseas Banking Strategic Commodities Commodity Trading

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Thomas Miller InvestmentKing’s College LondonLondonUK

About the authors

Brian O’Sullivan is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London, UK. He completed his PhD in 2015 at Birkbeck College, London, UK. He has spent most of his career in the asset management industry, including time with two merchant banks: Guinness Mahon and Schroders. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of Thomas Miller Investment. Previously he was a Senior Vice President at State Street Bank. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title From Crisis to Crisis
  • Book Subtitle The Transformation of Merchant Banking, 1914–1939
  • Authors Brian O'Sullivan
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Economics and Finance Economics and Finance (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-96697-7
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-40510-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-96698-4
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVIII, 410
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 15 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Financial History
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“British merchant banks bestrode the world before the First World War—and the City of London revived with the emergence of the Eurodollar market from the late 1950s. The interwar period has been overlooked, often seen as an interlude of stasis or decline. But Brian O’Sullivan’s excellent book draws on pioneering research to show how change was taking place that provided the basis of much that came later. This book is a major contribution to the financial history of the City of London.” (Martin Daunton, Emeritus Professor of Economic History, University of Cambridge, UK)

“I am delighted to see this outstanding research published as a companion to my own book. I warmly commend it to everyone fascinated by the history and current state of the city of London.” (Stanley Chapman, Emeritus Professor of Business History at the University of Nottingham; author of The Rise of Merchant Banking, UK)

“Original and timely—this important study follows merchant banks through the interwar crisis to raise profound questions about risk and regulation that remain with us to this day.” (Frank Trentmann, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, UK)