Mercantile Roots

  • Brian O’SullivanEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance book series (PSHF)


This chapter examines the mercantile activities of the merchant banks in the increasingly difficult economic environment of the interwar period. Some firms remained true to their mercantile roots, either by continuing as international traders or by becoming specialist operators within trading conglomerates. Such models were common in South America and the Far East. These variants on the merchant banking model are no less relevant than those that focused purely on financial activities, enabling some firms to continue their mercantile activities beyond the interwar period.


Merchant traders British overseas banks Trading houses Commodities Nitrate Guggenheim 

Select Bibliography

Primary Sources

  1. Official Publications: Google Scholar
  2. United Kingdom. Parliamentary Papers,Google Scholar
  3. 1929, Final Report of the Committee on Industry and Trade, Cmnd. 3282, ‘Balfour Committee’.Google Scholar
  4. 1930–1931, Statistical Tables Relating to British and Foreign Trade and Industry in the Period 1926–1930. Part I. General Tables—Trade and Industry (British and Foreign). Cmd. 3737.Google Scholar
  5. 1931, Report of the Committee on Finance and Industry, 1930–1931, Cmd. 3897. ‘Macmillan Committee’.Google Scholar
  6. Manuscript Sources: Google Scholar
  7. Bank of England Archive, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R Google Scholar
  8. Discount Office PapersGoogle Scholar
  9. Freedom of Information Request—Ref V 203740. Made by the Author in Respect of Special Advances Given to Antony Gibbs & Sons and Anglo-South American Bank in 1921.Google Scholar
  10. Richard Sydney Sayers Research PapersGoogle Scholar
  11. Digitised Collections:Google Scholar
  12. Committee of Treasury Minutes, 1770–1991. Available at:
  13. Montagu Norman Diaries, 1913–1944. Available at:
  14. London Metropolitan Archives, London, EC1R 0HB Google Scholar
  15. Accepting Houses Committee PapersGoogle Scholar
  16. Antony Gibbs & Sons PapersGoogle Scholar
  17. Brown, Shipley and Company PapersGoogle Scholar
  18. Cull and Company Ltd. PapersGoogle Scholar
  19. Goschens & Cunliffe PapersGoogle Scholar
  20. Guinness Mahon & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  21. Kleinwort, Sons & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  22. Morgan, Grenfell & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  23. Ralli Brothers PapersGoogle Scholar
  24. Wallace Brothers PapersGoogle Scholar
  25. Yule, Catto & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  26. Morgan Library & Museum (Formerly the Pierpont Morgan Library), 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA Google Scholar
  27. J. P. Morgan & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  28. The National Archives, Kew, London, TW9 4DU Google Scholar
  29. Arthur H. Brandt and Company PapersGoogle Scholar
  30. Board of Trade Papers:Google Scholar
  31. Chalmers Guthrie & Co Ltd. PapersGoogle Scholar
  32. Microfilmed Copies of the Records of the Hudson’s Bay CompanyGoogle Scholar
  33. Sale & Co PapersGoogle Scholar
  34. Treasury PapersGoogle Scholar
  35. UCL Special Collections, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT Google Scholar
  36. Balfour, Williamson & Co. PapersGoogle Scholar
  37. University of Cambridge, Centre of South Asian Studies, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT Google Scholar
  38. Barlow Family PapersGoogle Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Journal Articles and Other Published Papers Google Scholar
  2. Blainey, G. ‘Lost Causes of the Jameson Raid’. The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1965), pp. 350–366.Google Scholar
  3. Chapman, S. D. ‘British-Based Investment Groups Before 1914’. Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 38, No. 2 (May 1985), pp. 230–251.Google Scholar
  4. Daunton, Martin. ‘Inheritance and Succession in the City of London in the Nineteenth Century’. Business History, Vol. 30, No. 3 (July 1988), pp. 269–286.Google Scholar
  5. Daunton, Martin. ‘Firm and Family in the City of London in the Nineteenth Century: The Case of F. G. Dalgety’. Historical Research, No. 62, No. 148 (1989), pp. 154–177.Google Scholar
  6. Glaser-Schmidt, Elisabeth. ‘The Guggenheims and the Coming of the Great Depression in Chile, 1923–1934’. Business and Economic History, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Fall 1995), pp. 176–185.Google Scholar
  7. Harvey, Charles, and Jon Press. ‘The City and International Mining, 1870–1914’. Business History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (July 1990), pp. 98–119.Google Scholar
  8. Jones, Geoffrey, and Judith Wale. ‘Diversification Strategies of British Trading Companies: Harrisons & Crosfield, c.1900–c.1980’. Business History, Vol. 41, No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 69–101.Google Scholar
  9. López-Morell, Miguel A., and José M. O’Kean. ‘Seeking Out and Building Monopolies, Rothschild Strategies in Non-Ferrous Metals International Markets (1830–1940)’. Working Paper 10.17 Provided by Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics (2010).Google Scholar
  10. McLean, David. ‘Finance and “Informal Empire” Before the First World War’. The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 29, No. 2 (May 1976), pp. 292–305.Google Scholar
  11. Morton, Anne. ‘“We Are still Adventurers”: The Records of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Development Department and Fish and Fish Products Department, 1925–1940’. Archivaria, Vol. 21 (Winter 1985–1986), pp. 158–165.Google Scholar
  12. Smith, Barbara M. D. ‘The Galtons of Birmingham: Quaker Gun Merchants and Bankers, 1702–1831’. Business History, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1967), pp. 132–150.Google Scholar
  13. Turrell, Robert Vicat, and Jean Jacques van Helten. ‘The Rothschilds, the Exploration Company and Mining Finance’. Business History, Vol. 28, No. 2 (April 1986), pp. 181–205.Google Scholar
  14. Westcott, Nicholas. ‘The East African Sisal Industry, 1929–1949: The Marketing of a Colonial Commodity During Depression and War’. The Journal of African History, Vol. 25, No. 4 (1984), pp. 445–461.Google Scholar
  15. Chapters in Collective Works Google Scholar
  16. Daunton, M. J. ‘Financial Elites and British Society, 1880–1950’, in Youssef Cassis, (ed.), Finance and Financiers in European History, 1880–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  17. Boyce, Robert. The Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalisation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).Google Scholar
  18. Bramsen, Bo, and Kathleen Wain. The Hambros 1779–1979 (London: Michael Joseph, 1979).Google Scholar
  19. Brown, Hilton. Parry’s of Madras: A Story of British Enterprise in India (Madras: Parry & Co. Ltd., 1954).Google Scholar
  20. Burk, Kathleen. Morgan Grenfell 1838–1988: The Biography of a Merchant Bank (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  21. Cassis, Youssef (ed.). Finance and Financiers in European History, 1880–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  22. Chapman, Stanley. Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  23. Chapman, Stanley. The Rise of Merchant Banking (Aldershot: Gregg Revivals, 1992).Google Scholar
  24. Connell, Carol Matheson. A Business in Risk: Jardine Matheson and the Hong Kong Trading Industry (Westpoint, CT: Praeger, Kindle edn., 2004).Google Scholar
  25. Daunton, Martin. Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain 1851–1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  26. Ellis, Aytoun. Heir of Adventure: The Story of Brown, Shipley and Co., Merchant Bankers, 1810–1960 (London: Brown, Shipley & Co., 1960).Google Scholar
  27. Ferguson, Niall. The House of Rothschild: The World Banker 1849–1999 (London: Penguin, 1998).Google Scholar
  28. Graham, Richard. Britain and the Onset of Modernisation in Brazil 1850–1914 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  29. Henriques, Robert. Marcus Samuel, First Viscount Bearsted and Founder of the ‘Shell’ Transport and Trading Company, 1853–1927 (London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1960).Google Scholar
  30. Hunt, Wallis. Heirs of Great Adventure: The History of Balfour, Williamson and Company Limited—Volume II, 1901–1951 (London, Balfour, Williamson & Co Ltd, 1960).Google Scholar
  31. Jones, Geoffrey. The State and the Emergence of the British Oil Industry (London: Macmillan Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  32. Jones, Geoffrey. British Multinational Banking 1830–1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  33. Jones, Geoffrey. Merchants to Multinationals: British Trading Companies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  34. Joslin, David. A Century of Banking in Latin America: To Commemorate the Centenary in 1962 of the Bank of London & South America, Limited (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  35. Kavanagh, Ted. The History of Knowles & Foster, 1828–1948 (London: T. Kavanagh Associated, 1948).Google Scholar
  36. Keswick, Maggie, and Clara Weatherall (eds.). The Thistle and the Jade: A Celebration of 175 Years of Jardine, Matheson & Co. (London: Frances Lincoln, 2008).Google Scholar
  37. Kindleberger, Charles P. A Financial History of Western Europe (New York: Routledge, 1985).Google Scholar
  38. King, Frank H. H. The Hongkong Bank Between the Wars and the Bank Interned, 1919–1945: Return from Grandeur. The History of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, Vol. III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  39. Kynaston, David. The City of London: Volume III: Illusions of Gold 1914–1945 (London: Pimlico, 2000).Google Scholar
  40. Lascelles, David. Arbuthnot Latham: From Merchant Bank to Private Bank, 1833–2013 (London: James & James, 2013).Google Scholar
  41. Mackenzie, Compton. Realms of Silver: One Hundred Years of Banking in the East (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954).Google Scholar
  42. Maude, Wilfred. Merchants and Bankers: A Brief Record of Antony Gibbs & Sons and Its Associated Houses’ Business During 150 Years, 1808–1958 (London: Anthony Gibbs & Sons, 1958).Google Scholar
  43. Michie, Ranald C. The City of London: Continuity and Change, 1850–1990 (London: Macmillan Academic and Professional, 1992).Google Scholar
  44. Muir, Augustus. Blyth, Greene, Jourdain & Company Limited 1810–1960 (London: Newman Neame, 1961).Google Scholar
  45. Nottingham, Lucie. Rathbone Brothers: From Merchant to Banker, 1742–1992 (London: Rathbone Brothers Plc, 1992).Google Scholar
  46. One Hundred Years as East India Merchants: Harrisons & Crosfield, 1844–1943 (London: Harrisons & Crosfield, Ltd., c. 1943).Google Scholar
  47. Orbell, John, and Alison Turton. British Banking: A Guide to Historical Records (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001).Google Scholar
  48. Platt, D. C. M. Latin America and British Trade 1806–1914 (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1972).Google Scholar
  49. Pointon, A. C. Wallace Brothers (London: Wallace Brothers & Co. (Holdings) Ltd., 1974).Google Scholar
  50. Pressnell, L. S. Country Banking in the Industrial Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956).Google Scholar
  51. Roberts, Richard. Schroders: Merchants & Bankers (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  52. Sayers, R. S. The Bank of England 1891–1944. 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  53. Scammell, W. M. The London Discount Market (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  54. Sunderland, David. Financing the Raj: The City of London and Colonial India, 1858–1940 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2013).Google Scholar
  55. Unger, Debi, and Irwin Unger. The Guggenheims: A Family History (London: HarperCollins e-books, Kindle edn., 2005).Google Scholar
  56. Wake, Jehanne. Kleinwort, Benson: A History of Two Families in Banking (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  57. Warde, Edward. The House of Dodwell, A Century of Achievement 1858–1958 (London: Dodwell & Co. Ltd., 1958).Google Scholar
  58. Wilkins, Mira. The History of Foreign Investment in the United States to 1914 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  59. Unpublished Works Google Scholar
  60. Diaper, Stephanie Jane. The History of Kleinwort, Sons & Co. in Merchant Banking 1855–1961 (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Nottingham, 1983).Google Scholar
  61. Newspapers Google Scholar
  62. The London Gazette Google Scholar
  63. The Times Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thomas Miller InvestmentKing’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations