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stnylan

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When Josef Hoffman, one of the early pioneers of Art Deco, tried to enter his designs into competition for a proposed new building on 55 Broadway, the Royal Institute of British Architects sent him, what for architects constitutes, a threatening letter.

Presumably, the RIBA summoned up their entire lack of self-awareness and sent him something to the effect of “none of that foreign crap please”.

Glass and steel is not a tectonics of imperial might – not the British sort, anyway. As much as the engineers might get a kick out of it, it’s perfectly understandable why the people commissioning buildings were less than keen to adopt an idiom that was more or less Franco–American (even if that’s probably less of a cultural obstacle here than OTL).

there are industrial and economic considerations too, of course, which arguably don’t kick in quite yet.

The existence of the pedestal afforded to Howards End though, is also an excellent show of the way war changed the image people had of the era. Upon publication, the novel was about a divided society. Today, it is seen as a book about simpler times of relatively genteel class conflict and property inheritance.

I do love Howard’s End, but yeah, it’s substance is not in its cast-iron historical depiction of class conflict.

the British are an inherently nostalgic people

Quite. The grass was always greener, etc etc.

Enjoyed this, @BigBadBob. As much as I try to avoid Kipling like the proverbial, the verse you include here does convey the overall Cassandra-like sensibility very well. Plenty of turmoil even before the War.
 

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The.
Crystal.
Palace.

Yes. And the hothouse at Chatsworth.

Not saying Britain doesn’t do glass, just that it’s understandable why there wasn’t a British Louis Sullivan.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Yes. And the hothouse at Chatsworth.

Not saying Britain doesn’t do glass, just that it’s understandable why there wasn’t a British Louis Sullivan.

We like throwing bricks more than building greenhouses.
 

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As a whole though, the West End remained relatively static throughout the era. The Mikado and H. M. S. Pinafore were each performed more often from 1904 to 1909 than Shaw and Galsworthy’s entire output combined.

Obviously. The West End has to actually make money unlike, say, the Royal Opera House, so has to put on productions people actually want to see. The number of people who would willingly pay money to see a play by Shaw or Galsworthy is vanishingly small and such people probably need locking up rather than being allowed out in public.

Poetry too, experienced a type of stagnation. With the passing of Tennyson in 1892, Kipling was left as the towering figure on the scene. Even the young poets who would later embody the renaissance for British poetry of modernism showed little inclination to experiment; D. H. Lawrence’s early work, for example, shows little of the later continental influences and innovation of his wartime and post-war poetry, this despite his literature showing much of it.

An interesting choice of phrasing. "I don't stick my hands into mincing machines" apparently means I am stagnating and not experimenting. Perhaps people were resisting continental influences for damned good reasons? Obligatory shudder at *war poetry*, truly the greatest horror to emerge from the conflict.

When Josef Hoffman, one of the early pioneers of Art Deco, tried to enter his designs into competition for a proposed new building on 55 Broadway, the Royal Institute of British Architects sent him, what for architects constitutes, a threatening letter.

Good work RIBA, keep it up. Hoffman gives derivate hacks a bad name, if I was describing his work as badly detailed bland boxes with twirls ineptly nailed on I would be being overly generous.
 

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Obligatory shudder at *war poetry*, truly the greatest horror to emerge from the conflict.

Could be worse, could be Scots poetry post-rabbie burns. Or pre-burns for that matter...tragedy of the bridge collapse comes to mind.
 

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Hahaha I will have to dig that one out.

Villainous victorians. Terry deary also sings the hit song: they're moving fathers grave to build a sewer.
 

DensleyBlair

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They could all sense a Fall coming, and were quite aware they probably wouldn't be able to stop it without compeltly changing the world as they knew it. Hence, melancholy and nostalgia at minimum and full-blown depression and defeatist thinking at worst.

Plus ça change.

Reminds of some lines from Evita

"When you're ontop to the world, the view is not precisely clear"
"Don't Look down - it's a long long way to fall"

Both from the same song.


One has to wonder though how much of this is with hindsight: knowledge of the decline magnifyning hints or concernrs of it, or even seeing thigns where none is there?

There is a very real relative decline in British power and competitiveness on the world stage, which people can feel to some extent and are responding to, but without any concrete events to prove it (especially as the one such event that does exist - having to concede the Americas to the USA - was obscured by the Great Rapprochement) it all comes off as a bit paranoid at a time the British Empire covers a quarter of the globe. Doubly so when Federation seems to be knitting that empire closer.

Seeing mysterious thighs is quite distracting for late victorians...
Point I order - I wrote/typoed thigns - even later historians lisped! :D

Sure... typo.

Presumably, the RIBA summoned up their entire lack of self-awareness and sent him something to the effect of “none of that foreign crap please”.

Glass and steel is not a tectonics of imperial might – not the British sort, anyway. As much as the engineers might get a kick out of it, it’s perfectly understandable why the people commissioning buildings were less than keen to adopt an idiom that was more or less Franco–American (even if that’s probably less of a cultural obstacle here than OTL).

there are industrial and economic considerations too, of course, which arguably don’t kick in quite yet.

I do love Howard’s End, but yeah, it’s substance is not in its cast-iron historical depiction of class conflict.

Quite. The grass was always greener, etc etc.

Enjoyed this, @BigBadBob. As much as I try to avoid Kipling like the proverbial, the verse you include here does convey the overall Cassandra-like sensibility very well. Plenty of turmoil even before the War.

I definitely should come to you once I have to touch on architecture again. It's not exactly my specialty, but at least I seem to have got the gist of things.

I do like Recessional, partially because it is so very British to put on a big show celebrating ourselves with all kinds of pomp and circumstance, and go back to grumbling about how it's all falling apart before the show is barely even over. Double points for when we pinpoint it as 'the last time things were good.' The 2012 Olympics seem to be taking on a similar quality in the popular mind, at least for some demographics.

The.
Crystal.
Palace.
Yes. And the hothouse at Chatsworth.

Not saying Britain doesn’t do glass, just that it’s understandable why there wasn’t a British Louis Sullivan.
We like throwing bricks more than building greenhouses.

Really, it just shields us from the old proverb about glass houses.

Obviously. The West End has to actually make money unlike, say, the Royal Opera House, so has to put on productions people actually want to see. The number of people who would willingly pay money to see a play by Shaw or Galsworthy is vanishingly small and such people probably need locking up rather than being allowed out in public.

An interesting choice of phrasing. "I don't stick my hands into mincing machines" apparently means I am stagnating and not experimenting. Perhaps people were resisting continental influences for damned good reasons? Obligatory shudder at *war poetry*, truly the greatest horror to emerge from the conflict.

Good work RIBA, keep it up. Hoffman gives derivate hacks a bad name, if I was describing his work as badly detailed bland boxes with twirls ineptly nailed on I would be being overly generous.
Could be worse, could be Scots poetry post-rabbie burns. Or pre-burns for that matter...tragedy of the bridge collapse comes to mind.
Good old Topaz. So many stanzas, so few different rhymes.

Derivative of what exactly? Adobe brick houses?

Am I sensing a hint of conservatism in this response, Pip? Never would have thought such a thing from you.

The horrible history audio book does a fantastic reading of him.
Hahaha I will have to dig that one out.
Villainous victorians. Terry deary also sings the hit song: they're moving fathers grave to build a sewer.
I love it.

In recent years, I've found that a surprising amount of the historical titbits in my brain are from Horrible Histories.

Also, two general AARland points:

Most importantly, THE ACAS ARE BACK! Go vote here!

Secondly, this AAR has earned me my first ever WritAAR of the Week award! Yay!
 

BigBadBob

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ALL TRANSACTIONS LEAD TO LONDON
The Financial Empire and the September Crisis in the City
David Connolly

While British industry and agriculture in the four decades before the Great War were beset by foreign competition and agricultural depression - which often leads to economic historians interpreting the period as one of seemingly inexorable relative decline - one sector not only maintained its dominance in the world economy, but took it to new heights. The City of London, home of the largest and most efficient financial centre in the world since the mid-18th Century, was already the main centre of global finance in 1870. By 1910 however, there would be no other place in the world that could be considered a centre in itself; all finance led to London, and the rest of the world were merely spokes in the City’s wheel.

To some extent, the relative decline of British domestic production and the City’s land-grab of the extra-British world fed each other. First the agricultural depression of the ‘70s and ‘80s reduced the attractiveness of agricultural investment, and demand for investment for town industries declined as they were inundated with workers coming in from the last gasp of the agrarian society, obviating the need to improve productivity or get into new industries to stay afloat. Once the City had responded by turning its attentions more than ever to the higher returns of the Second Industrial Revolution on the continent and in America, the cycle became self-reinforcing.

It is during this period that we also see the heyday of imperial finance. Throughout the Scramble for Africa, a clear pattern developed of new conquests soon being inundated with money from London. Whereas previously finance might follow imperial conquest some years later or not arrive at all, it now became a given that, if existing interests did not already precipitate a hardening of British power in the region in response to local attempts to repel it, finance would march in seemingly with the troops. The ambition of projects similarly expanded. Instead of the chartered companies of the early colonial era that relied heavily on the work and money of settlers, men like Cecil Rhodes could receive millions of pounds from the City for grand projects like the Cairo-Cape Railway.


barnet isaacs - Copy.jpg

Sir Barnet Isaacs, 1888
In the 1880s and ‘90s, while working at Laing Fisher, Isaacs arranged the financing of so many grand projects in the newly acquired African colonies that he earned the nickname ‘Isaacs Africanus’

The City also finally found the older empire, investing more in India in the 1890s in real terms than it had in the previous half-century. The Civilians who administered the Raj complained to London that the City was upsetting the delicate balance in the subcontinent by its financing, having little concern for strategic thinking in its search for profit. They even likened the rush of Sterling to the destabilisation the East India Company caused in the years before the Mutiny. London, always wary of such developments in the Raj, attempted - and failed - to rein in the City through informal contact by the Treasury and Bank, but did no more.

Similarly, in the ‘informal’ empire, which was not officially under British control, but turned to London before it made decisions, the City found lucrative new revenue streams. It was in the late-19th Century that Hong Kong went from an opium and commodity port - a pit-stop for goods going into the Qing Empire - to a bustling financial centre. Many a City grandee now traced the origins of their fortune and good name in the Square Mile to a sojourn in Hong Kong, financing the inward march of European traders into China and the ravenous demand of an industrialising Japan.

Even more than the Raj, Africa, or informally colonised areas though, the settler colonies of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand experienced a flood of money. Far from the ideal of hardy men and women creating a new Eden off the sweat of their backs alone, the explosion in population and wealth these places experienced was driven by the fact that the value of City investment is estimated to have been double that of the GDPs of the colonies in every decade from 1880 up to the Great War. But even this paled in comparison to the money the City directed to the United States.

The first and largest settler colony, even if it was no longer a colony, saw an economic acceleration post-Civil War that was financed, above all, by City money. Of some £4 billion invested outside of Britain by 1910, a quarter was invested in the United States. When it is taken into account that the vast majority of non-British investment passed through a City merchant bank on its way to the US, easily three quarters of debt in the United States not owed to an American was in the hands of someone or other in the Square Mile.


stockexchange - Copy.jpg

Floor of the London Stock Exchange, 1897
Taken the morning of the Diamond Jubilee, Charlie Clarke (informal Master of Ceremonies for the Exchange on great occasions between 1890 and 1922) prepares to lead the floor in renditions of God Save The Queen and Rule, Britannia!

The City had long been a thoroughfare for the commodities trade, with London’s position on the way out of Europe and its vast docks providing a convenient last stop before heading to the world. This was only compounded by the fact that registration in London significantly smoothed the experience in the many imperial ports one would likely have to make stops in if heading much farther than the US or West Africa. In the decades leading up to the war, however, the Bill on London, already the most used bill of exchange, became the default instrument of trade finance.

The Bill was a mechanism by which world trade was lubricated through the reliability of the City and Bank of England. In essence, the bill of exchange was a promise to pay at a later date. Endorsed by a merchant bank in London - one that was part of the famed Accepting Houses committee - for a small fee, it could be sold forward on the discount market, most likely to one of the two great Discount Houses (National and Union Discount). The bill would then be bought by a third bank as a self-liquidating investment. Through this, the problem of payment not arriving until goods did was solved; the bill of exchange, backed by the might of London and the Bank’s promise to maintain Sterling on the Gold Standard, was as good as gold.

So ubiquitous was the Bill on London that it undermined and destroyed many would-be financial centres. Hamburg, which in 1870 looked poised to become the pipe through which German money flowed to the outside world and vice versa, ended up merely a port. Though it had exchange houses and a Bill on Hamburg, payment for 70% of trading was handled, in fact, through the Bill on London. Similarly, Germans investing in Germany found themselves taking the boat to Southern England. There they engaged with banks like Rothschilds or Kleinworts, which spoke German, but were very much part of the City’s ‘gentlemanly class,’ business with them protected by the social pedigree that assured the Etonian ethos embedded in the top banks would see their debts and claims honoured. It was a story repeated the world over; concerns whose headquarters were mere miles from each other would conduct their business hundreds or thousands of miles away through their merchant bankers.*


1911 crisis city - Copy.jpg

Queues at the Bank of England, October 1st, 1911
The very centrality of London to world trade and finance also exposed it to the greatest systemic shock in its history upon the outbreak of global war in 1911

It was this same, spectacular empire of finance that made the September Crisis such a shock to London and the world financial markets. As the September Crisis escalated, markets began to gum up. First, the German ultimatum ground Austro-German trade to a halt, and banks holding bills on it began to call in money and liquidate bills on other trade to deal with the expected delay on payment of Austro-German bills until the end of any war. Then the same happened to Russo-German trade.

At this point, a feeling of panic began to descend upon the London money markets. The bills of exchange, once lubricants, now turned into dead paper if they were predicated on a trade associated with a mobilising country. Consequently, the yield on UK Gilts** plummeted as investors ran for safety. While this would perhaps be ideal for a government that expected to sell a lot more debt in the coming war, the implications for the financial system as a whole far outweighed the benefit of cheaper debt.

For most banks, their ‘liquid’ reserves were in cash, money at call, gilts, and bills of exchange. With the last unsellable, and thus impossible to liquidate, and gilts selling almost at a loss by October 1st, the first two became the only way to deal with withdrawals. However, with London banks calling in their many, many debts from the outside world, including – crucially - British allies, the liquidity crunch caused by the coma of the Bill on London was massively exacerbated. When war was officially declared on October 1st, the panic truly set in. Customers rushed to draw their money out of banks, and then turn that money into gold out of the Bank of England, which, despite its extensive reserves, began to see the bottom of the barrel. It seemed that a financial apocalypse was at hand.


c arthur clarke - Copy.jpg

C. Arthur Clarke, 1st Baron Clarke, 1906
As Governor of the Bank of England (1906-1912), Clarke was instrumental in preventing financial collapse from being a consequence of the outbreak of war

Regardless of the wider consequences for the world economy, the collapse that faced the City was not something the government could countenance. The City was supposed to be the financier of Britain’s allies, allowing the UK itself to avoid the commitment of large amounts of troops to the continent. The prospect of financial calamity leading directly to British soldiers dying on the continent was the stuff of nightmares, and so the Treasury and Bank met with leading City figures on October 2nd to negotiate a method of saving the City.

The resulting measures were unlike anything seen in the history of world finance. The Stock Exchange, where money was haemorrhaging out, was closed, and would not reopen for three weeks, and the banks themselves were given a four-day Bank Holiday. A General Moratorium was issued on debts over £5 for a month. The Gold Standard, while ostensibly maintained by the Bank, was abandoned by stealth; the Treasury and Bank would suspend the minimum reserve requirement for every newly issued note of Sterling.*** Most importantly, the bill of exchange was shored up with a massive purchase program by the Bank of England.

In the last, the Acceptance Houses were, officially, still on the hook, but given access to an extremely generous Bank lending scheme, as were the commercial banks, to staunch the flow of money out of France and Russia. In the space of days, the Old Lady had gone from the most conservative of financial institutions, operating almost entirely on reputation and recommendation, to the most interventionist in the world. The pressures of war would indeed continue to radically transform the City and the contours of global finance. By 1917, the global financial system would be nigh unrecognisable from the one that barrelled into crisis in September 1911.


* The supreme example, likely apocryphal, but not impossible to imagine having happened, was the tale of the merger that created Johnson & Johnson Chemical Works in Philadelphia, PA. In 1903, Charles Johnson of C. Johnson & Co. Iron called up his banker, George Smith-Gerald of Barings, wishing to negotiate a buyout of his rival, Jeremiah Johnson of J. Johnson & Son Iron. Smith-Gerald walked the half-mile to his old school friend Henry Wallace at Smith Hill, who handled J. Johnson & Son’s business. After three days of negotiation, Messrs Smith-Gerald and Wallace signed a £30,000 merger agreement on behalf of their clients. Upon receiving the news, Messrs Johnson and Johnson, being brothers, crossed the floor of their house to shake hands.

** The name given to regular bonds issued by the UK Government, so-called for the gilded edges of the official bond document.

*** As the story goes, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Edward Benson quipped at the end of the meeting that ‘it is a good thing my predecessor [Charles A. Nicholson] is not here with us today, for we could likely power the [note-printing] presses with his anger.’
 
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DensleyBlair

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Will take in the latest update a bit later on when I have the time to wrap my head around it, but in the mean time:

I definitely should come to you once I have to touch on architecture again. It's not exactly my specialty, but at least I seem to have got the gist of things.

And very welcome you would be, too.

The 2012 Olympics seem to be taking on a similar quality in the popular mind, at least for some demographics.

Yes, Christ. Nostalgia for Danny Boyle’s 2012 exists at the absolute nadir of the British cultural imagination. (I can’t decide whether it’s better or worse than nostalgia for 1997…)

In recent years, I've found that a surprising amount of the historical titbits in my brain are from Horrible Histories.

It is such a great institution. And the songs!
 

stnylan

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Ahh, there is no crisis so damaging as a crisis of confidence.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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having to concede the Americas to the USA

Except Canada, the Caribbean, the colonies they still possessed in South amercia, along with supreme investments and controls over most of South amercia's economies.

But yes, the british did indeed conceed to basic amercian supremacy in the amercias...except everywhere where they still were interested.
 

slothinator

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Oh, dear...a world war with such a centralized trading economy is sure to make the conflict quite a lot more problematic in the early stages.
I suppose that the outcome of the war will decide whether or not we will see a multipolar system in the twenties or if the City will hold onto her crown.
 

DensleyBlair

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Finally found the processing power to get through this, @BigBadBob! Very well written as ever, even if much of what you were writing about made me want to prise my eyes out with a rusty chisel. :p

stockexchange - Copy.jpg

Floor of the London Stock Exchange, 1897
Taken the morning of the Diamond Jubilee, Charlie Clarke (informal Master of Ceremonies for the Exchange on great occasions between 1890 and 1922) prepares to lead the floor in renditions of God Save The Queen and Rule, Britannia!

I refuse to believe that this photo and caption have not been lab-grown by experts in answer to the problem: What is the fastest way to make Densley violently and exceptionally ill with disgust?

The Bill was a mechanism by which world trade was lubricated through the reliability of the City and Bank of England. In essence, the bill of exchange was a promise to pay at a later date. Endorsed by a merchant bank in London - one that was part of the famed Accepting Houses committee - for a small fee, it could be sold forward on the discount market, most likely to one of the two great Discount Houses (National and Union Discount). The bill would then be bought by a third bank as a self-liquidating investment. Through this, the problem of payment not arriving until goods did was solved; the bill of exchange, backed by the might of London and the Bank’s promise to maintain Sterling on the Gold Standard, was as good as gold.

I promise to pay the bearer… I understand well enough, but as for the rest of it— money machine goes brrrr.

There they engaged with banks like Rothschilds or Kleinworts, which spoke German, but were very much part of the City’s ‘gentlemanly class,’ business with them protected by the social pedigree that assured the Etonian ethos embedded in the top banks would see their debts and claims honoured.

Not to be too cynical, but judging by the handful of Etonians I've encountered in my days, I imagine this assurance would comes with a hefty side order of caveats end exceptions for the average punter.

It seemed that a financial apocalypse was at hand.

Bring on the interbellum and the red tide, I say! Up with the anarchist unions! :D
 

El Pip

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Am I sensing a hint of conservatism in this response, Pip? Never would have thought such a thing from you.
Taste. What you are detecting is hints of taste and discernment.
Z3wSg01.gif


Very well written as ever, even if much of what you were writing about made me want to prise my eyes out with a rusty chisel.
I've had a very similar experience while trying to catch up with bits of your Echoes of a New Tomorrow. So I both feel your pain and feel you deserve experiencing it yourself. ;)


While an interesting bit of writing I feel the author of that essay is perhaps over-stating his case. The whole point of the post-1866 Bank of England was that it had learnt the lessons of Overend Gurney (which remains an amusing name for a failed bank) and more importantly everyone else thought so to. It's not that the BoE was conservative by nature, it was that it didn't need to be interventionist because milder measures and it's reputation would get the job done cheaper and with less disruption. But when those measures didn't work it would rapidly intervene, as indeed it has here.

Given your many ominous warnings I fear for the City in the post-war world, mostly because I have very severe doubts the rest of the economy is capable of picking up the strain should the City stumble.
 
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