Money Walks | The Economic Role of the Street in the City of London 1947–1993

Amy Thomas

Abstract


Prior to the deregulation of the Thatcher years, the City of London (London’s financial district) was largely self-regulated, operating via what Michael Moran refers to as ‘an explicit ideology of cooperative regulation’, institutionalized within a system of market-specific, club-like bodies, such as the Stock Exchange and Lloyds insurance market. Supervised and operated via its members, the components of each institution were tied together through a mode of exchange that prized face-to-face contact, reputation and trust, epitomised by the Stock Exchange motto Dictum Meum Pactum (‘My word is my bond’). The latter was made concrete via messenger-operated payment and clearing systems, organised around the hours of trade, provoking the need for proximity between institutions and specific architectural arrangements and resulting in an urban agglomeration of banks and other institutions in the immediate vicinity of the Bank of England.

The advent of digital technology entailed a decline in the economic significance of pedestrian activity in the City. The shift from manual, paper operations to onscreen transactions made redundant the kinetic network of brokers and messengers that once formed the circulatory system for banking and finance. This paper considers the way in which such shifts ultimately reconfigured the nature of the street as public space and argues that, as fundamental parts of the financial transaction were removed from the City’s thoroughfares, the street would no longer be an extension of the workplace, but a space of leisure. Exploring concepts such as ‘transaction’, ‘regulation’ and ‘exchange’ as social processes with material consequences, this paper attempts to chart the historical link between the street and economic activity, through analysis of the City’s myriad pedestrian ways and changing attitudes to planning public space in the fifty years following the Second World War.


Keywords


City of London; Street; Mechanisation; Transaction

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