Crash Bang Wallop: The Inside Story of London's Big Bang and a Financial Revolution that Changed the World - Iain Martin
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
REBEL Editorial || November 24th
The author examines the history of the so called Big Bang that took place in 1986. The name is given to the day when the Stock Exchange was opened up, liberalised and computerised. After thirty years there is still no consensus about whether its consequences were benign or malign. Some argue the changes licensed greed and selfishness and contributed to the crash of 2008. Others believe the revolution was essential if London was to retain its position as one of the world's leading financial centres.
Critics seized on the changes as evidence of a Thatcher inspired revolution that unleashed greed on a massive scale. An alternative view sees it as an example of the positive reforms instigated by Thatcher during her eleven years in office. The changes, they say, abolished the old school tie and replaced it with meritocracy. It also increased the number of women on the floor of the Stock Exchange. They liken it to the switch to free trade in the mid-nineteenth century. The opposing views are so strongly held that compromise is unlikely.
Martin explains the factors and developments that preceded the Big Bang and contributed to London's re-emergence as a global financial centre. These he traces back to the 1960's. Hence, Part One of his book is entitled 'Ignition'. It examines the origins and developments of the City of London from the 16th century up to the late nineteen seventies.
Part Two is called ' Friction'. This deals with the inside story of the Big Bang. It also features the fashion, satire, architecture, media and music of the eighties. In addition, it examines the establishment of a rival to the City on the dockland wasteland in the East End.
Part Three deals with the crash of 1987, the scandals of the era, the dramatic growth of the City, the battle with New York, and the crash of 2008 and subsequent recovery. It is entitled ' Combustion'. Finally, Martin assesses the City's future in the face of Brexit.
The book is not a technical story. It is replete with leading and intriguing personalities. This reveals several vignettes. Martin explains how the City's growth resulted from luck, and the work of visionaries and rogues. His discussion of the work of, for example, Thomas Gresham and Sir Nicholas Barbon , is fascinating and illuminating.
Martin has written a very readable history of how the City became the world's money hub. He explores the amazing growth of the City. By 2007 it had become the home for 70 percent of the global secondary bond market and almost 50 percent of the derivatives market. With regards the future he is optimistic. He believes digital banking, Fin Tech, will be exploited by London. The City, he says, will survive and prosper, making money out of money, as it always has.