How pirate booty built the Bank of England

Posted by ap507 at Feb 02, 2016 09:47 AM |
University of Leicester researcher explores how modern management needs to learn from the pages of history – and its novels

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 February 2016

A video about ‘Daniel Defoe and the Bank of England’ is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKDiCfv86QU

The remarkable similarities between the invention of the novel and of commercial corporations such as the Bank of England in the seventeenth century can inform present-day theories of management, according to a University of Leicester researcher.

In a new book entitled ‘Daniel Defoe and the Bank of England’ published by Zero Books, Professor Martin Parker from the University of Leicester’s School of Management and author Valerie Hamilton argue that stories and organisations are both fictions that require us to believe in them.

The book tells the story of two friends, Daniel Defoe, one of the inventors of the novel, and William Paterson, one of the inventors of the Bank of England.

The book suggests that their creations work in the same way, using almost identical techniques to make fictions into facts. Both require that we suspend our disbelief, and give credit to charlatans who are out to deceive us.

Professor Parker explained: “The book tells a story about the determination of two imaginative individuals, but is also shaped by the hand of chance. The Bank of England took shape because of the discovery of treasure in a sunken ship in the Caribbean, and because it promised more money than it ever had. Robinson Crusoe also had to promise truth, with realistic accounts of recognisable people who had never existed, spinning lies in order to make money for speculators like Defoe and his publishers.”

The book takes its audience back to a London before novels existed – where there were poems, plays, fables, legends and stories of gods and goddesses and knights and damsels, but no stories about ordinary people and nothing written in the language we might use and set in places we might recognise.

It tells the truthful story of how the Bank of England came into being, arguing that its origin is a story of pirates, treasure, random good fortune and sheer determination similar to that of the early novel.

Professor Parker added: “At this time few modern organisations existed - goldsmiths and guilds had vaults where they kept various forms of bullion and things of value but there were no banks, no large scale speculation and finance. The commercial corporation was taking shape, with the beginnings of various companies of merchants for overseas exploration, but had little visibility in the everyday world. In London, trade was face-to-face and small scale.

"This is a book which shows that present day theories of management need to learn from history. Our book reconnects with a past less bounded than our own, less disciplined and classified. Defoe and Paterson were both extraordinary ‘projectors’ – a seventeenth century word we would now translate as ‘entrepreneur’. This book shows how their ‘projections’ now shape the world that we live in, but also that our own organisations are, in the end, just stories too.”

‘Daniel Defoe and the Bank of England’, published by Zero Books, is available from the publisher here: http://www.zero-books.net/books/daniel-defoe-bank-england

 ENDS 

Notes to editors:

For more information get in touch with Professor Martin Parker on mp431@leicester.ac.uk

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