The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800
Richard S. Grossman
Commercial banks are among the oldest and most familiar financial institutions. When they work well, we hardly notice; when they do not, we rail against them. What are the historical forces that have shaped the modern banking system? In Unsettled Account, Richard Grossman takes the first truly comparative look at the development of commercial banking systems over the past two centuries in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Grossman focuses on four major elements that have contributed to banking evolution: crises, bailouts, mergers, and regulations. He explores where banking crises come from and why certain banking systems are more resistant to crises than others, how governments and financial systems respond to crises, why merger movements suddenly take off, and what motivates governments to regulate banks.
Grossman reveals that many of the same components underlying the history of banking evolution are at work today. The recent subprime mortgage crisis had its origins, like many earlier banking crises, in a boom-bust economic cycle. Grossman finds that important historical elements are also at play in modern bailouts, merger movements, and regulatory reforms.
Unsettled Account is a fascinating and informative must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the modern commercial banking system came to be, where it is headed, and how its development will affect global economic growth.
Richard S. Grossman is professor of economics at Wesleyan University and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.