This book has been written to mark the 125th anniversary of the Pasche group, now the private banking arm of the French group CM-CIC. To celebrate this anniversary, Banque Pasche has chosen to support an academic work that will be a contribution to banking and financial history. In March 2009, I discussed the topic with Christophe Mazurier. In the face of the magnitude of a shock from which we were just starting to recover, a historical reflection on financial crises was the only conceivable choice. There has been, since then, a huge demand for history—in order to compare the Financial Debacle of 2007–8 with previous ones, especially that of 1929, and to ponder on the direction of things to come in the light of past experiences. In commissioning this book, Banque Pasche has responded to the needs not only of the general public, but also of decision-makers in politics, business, and finance. I am grateful to Christophe Mazurier for giving me the opportunity to write this timely work. I only hope that it will contribute to the better understanding of a momentous event, which will be debated for years to come.
The history of financial crises is a vast subject. One question seems to me particularly relevant as the world's political and economic leaders struggle with the aftermath of the credit crunch: have financial crises in the past presented opportunities to rebuild the financial system? Reflecting upon eight global financial crises since the late nineteenth century, the study enquires into how the financial landscape—banks, governance, regulation, international cooperation, and balance of power—has been (or has failed to be) reshaped after a systemic shock. The book is the work of a historian and is rooted in a narrative account without, however, neglecting the contribution of financial economics to the analysis of financial crisis. Without the sacrifice of scholarly rigour, the style adopted is not intended primarily for specialists, even though they too should find plenty to appreciate here. I hope that not only academics, particularly historians, economists, and other social scientists, and practitioners of banking and finance, but all those wishing to make sense of the Financial Debacle of 2007–8 by putting it in a historical perspective, will find reading this book worthwhile and enjoyable. It would have been (p.xvi) impossible to write it without the contribution and advice of many colleagues and trusted friends. I would like to thank, in particular, Edoardo Altamura, Stefano Battilossi, Mikael Bourqui, Philip Cottrell, Michel Dacorogna, Yann Decorzant, Juan Flores, Mary O'Sullivan, Laure Quennouëlle-Corre, Ileana Racianu, Richard Roberts, Janette Rutterford, Catherine Schenk, Richard Sylla, Jean-Jacques Van Helten, and Patrick Verley. I should also like to thank Sandra Sestito, of Banque Pasche, David Musson, at Oxford University Press, and their teams, for help and support, and for making it possible to produce this book. I am, of course, responsible for any errors that may remain and for the views that are expressed in it.