31 Oct 2011

Banking Practices in Early 20th Century Bask

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(BTW for new readers, “bask” is my abbreviation for “blog ask” since I am too proud to beg.)

This is going to be a weird one: I have agreed to be a sort of economic consultant for a relative who is a working on a novel that involves characters working in a bank in Ireland in the early 1900s. Part of the plot involves a trusted employee of the bank suddenly going rogue and leaving town after embezzling a lot of money from one of the bank’s customer’s accounts.

I am quite certain there would be no way to easily do this type of thing nowadays, but I’m wondering if it would have been easier in 1900. (Also, there is some leeway–the guy was leaving the country so if it could just go undetected for 24 hours it could work.)

Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions for how I could figure out what bank procedures were in my ancient homeland back then?

4 Responses to “Banking Practices in Early 20th Century Bask”

  1. Tom Woods says:

    I would ask Gerard Casey (Lou Church lecturer a couple years ago) for leads; I can get you his contact info.

  2. Joseph Fetz says:

    I would imagine that Ireland was still under the English system of banking, especially in the early 20th century. The only difference being that the central banking authority was English and that Irish deposits were pyramided upon the English reserve.

    My gut-feeling is that if you focus upon English banking at or near the year 1900 that you will find a great deal of information regarding the Irish system, as well.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      I guess that a fictional novel does have quite a bit of “wiggle room” with regard to historical accuracy. But, Ireland was attempting to break away from English rule (once again) at this point in history. So, a great aid to the plot of the story could be a collectivist/nationalist notion of disregard for all things English (which was pretty prevalent in Ireland at this time in history). I would imagine that any Irishman that ripped off the BoE at this point would be hailed as a patriot in Ireland and his identity would most certainly be kept secret by those Irishmen in the know.

      As with any crime (or, perceived crime), the perpetrators identity is inextricably tied to not only who he/she knows, but also to the ability of the perpetrator/principle to keep his/her mouth shut. The plot of this fictional story must either conclude that the principle character told nobody of his/her deeds (i.e. the character is a loner/rebel), that only a few close and trusting few knew, and/or that the political climate was such that any “strike” against the English “Crown” or its “bank” was supported in full by those who knew the perpetrator, thus they offered protection (or, tight-lippedness).

      Fiction and history (esp. economic history) always makes for a difficult story. Oftentimes you must take creative license in order for the story to progress and open up. Usually, it is much easier to have an entirely fictional story that has some historical basis, rather than it being historically accurate with a fictional plot laid upon it. I am sure that Mr. Woods would agree, this suspension of reality with the inclusion of historically accurate and/or technically accurate information, often makes for a more intriguing storyline. But, ultimately it comes down to the story being compelling enough to begin with.

  3. jjoxman says:

    You might contact the Irish public library. They usually have a research section that can help you. I did this with Scotland when doing some research on raising financial capital in a free banking environment. Or, here is the list of academic libraries. http://www.library.ie/libraries/academic-libraries/university-libraries/

    Librarians are a fantastic resource than help a lot with this sort of research.