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Date updated: 20/03/2023

Records of some financial organisations held at London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives holds the largest single collection of business archives held by a local authority in England and Wales representing businesses mainly based in the 'Square Mile' of the City of London as well as in the wider Greater London region. LMA’s holdings are especially strong in merchant banking and insurance, particularly in the period before the Big Bang, and in this accruing series, compiled by Claire Titley, we take a closer look at the records of business organisations which represented the interests of City professionals and firms or regulated them, such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW), the British Bankers Association (BBA), the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the London Chamber of Commerce (the other LCC).

These records are relatively underused, and can be a valuable source of information on a wide variety of topics including the development of financial products and services, resourcing (finance/staffing/investment), the effects of technological changes (development of the office, new processes, new markets), employment (demographics, culture, commuting), the development of finance-related professions and the relationship between them, investment at home and abroad, the development of global markets and of financial services in other territories, the study of commodities, the relationship between the City of London with government, political parties and public opinion, and the relationship between organisations (including the role of the Bank of England), and finally, but not exhaustively, the changes to the physical nature of the Square Mile itself, its margins and the growth of areas such as Canary Wharf.

At LMA you can find books on the City around shelf mark 33.0 in the LMA Library. David Kynaston’s 'City of London – The History' is particularly helpful; it is rich on colourful examples and his interest in social history makes it a fascinating read. (It is an abridged version of his 4 volume history, which LMA does not have). More analytical is Ranald Michie’s 'The City of London – Continuity and Change 1850-1990'. There is a useful little series of books with titles such as 'What goes on in the City?' by Nicholas Ritchie (33.0 RIT). These were published every so often with updated definitions and are useful for basic descriptions (for example, a 1970s one will give you a very clear picture of the City at that period). LMA is better stocked with histories of individual banks, around the same shelf mark.

Of course, Guildhall Library has a rich collection of printed sources related to business history, and researchers intending to do any proper background reading should start there.

We continue by looking at records of national organisations to do with chambers of trade and commerce

Association of British Chambers of Commerce

The Association was founded in 1860 as the Association of Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom and its name was changed to the Association of British Chambers of Commerce in 1919. The Association is now known as the British Chambers of Commerce. Early chambers of commerce had been established in Jersey, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast amongst others, but there was no concerted attempt to work together until the presidents of the Yorkshire Chambers met at the Social Science Congress in Bradford in 1859 and decided they needed their own national forum. The Association had London offices in Queen Anne's Gate, City of Westminster (to be close to the Houses of Parliament) and at Cannon Street and Queen Street in the City of London.

In the nineteenth century the Association was concerned with a wide variety of subjects including bankruptcy and partnership law, patents and trade-marks, copyright, reform of copyright law, shipping and railways, and foreign tariffs. By 1900 the Association comprised 90 chambers and included more than 50 Members of Parliament among its honorary members. Much of its success in this period stemmed from its ability to influence Parliament. One cause for which it lobbied for over a century was adoption of the metric system. After the Second World War it argued for UK membership of a European trading area. In the post war period the Association argued against the Labour Government's increased involvement with the economy and industry. The increasing interest of the state in industrial affairs led the Association to seek to influence Ministers directly and to liaise with government departments to amend proposed legislation, rather than by lobbying MPs.

Find out more on the LMA collections catalogue under reference CLC/B/016.

What could these records be used for?

Useful for discovering what the business community thought about a range of issues including those mentioned above, and for researching business attitudes to, relationship with and influence on government.

Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce

The Federation was founded in 1911 as the British Imperial Council of Commerce, becoming the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire in 1926; the Federation of Commonwealth and British Empire Chambers of Commerce in 1955; the Federation of Commonwealth and Empire Chambers of Commerce in 1961; and the Federation of Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce in 1963. The Federation operated from the premises of the London Chamber of Commerce. It was dissolved in 1975.

Find out more on the LMA collections catalogue under reference CLC/B/082.

What could these records be used for?

These records can be used in conjunction with other Chambers of Commerce records for an international perspective, particularly with regard to Commonwealth countries and their relationship with the UK.

London Chamber of Commerce

The London Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1882. There had been various previous attempts in 1823-4 and in the 1860s-1870s to establish a similar body, but these had met with hostility from the City of London Corporation. An organising committee was set up by the Lord Mayor in January 1881. It applied for incorporation under the Companies Act and had its first general meeting on 25 January 1882. From its foundation, the Chamber published the Chamber of Commerce Journal (copies are held by Guildhall Library 1882-1961) which became accepted as a mouthpiece for the British business community. Within two years of its formation, the London Chamber was the largest in the UK and had been given prominence in the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. By 1892 it had a membership of over 3000. The Chamber's role was to develop international trade and represent the interests of the London trading community, a community which was intended to encompass all of the metropolis of London, not just the City of London. It also assisted members in resolving more day to day trading concerns.

Find out more on the LMA collections catalogue under reference CLC/B/150.

What could these records be used for?

These records are an excellent comprehensive resource, but little used at present. Subject files represent specific trades and specific geographical areas (countries tended to have their own 'section'). Useful for understanding the historic concerns of businesses and for discovering information about specific trades and areas of business.

National Chamber of Trade

The National Chamber of Trade was inaugurated in Manchester in November 1897. The Chamber was predominantly concerned with matters relating to the retailing industry, whereas the Association of British Chambers of Commerce was primarily concerned with manufacturers and merchants. Local chambers of trade were affiliated to the National Chamber which co-ordinated the local chambers, acted as a legislative force and provided advice on such topics as law, management, finance and trade regulations. The National Chamber of Trade merged with the Association of British Chambers of Commerce in January 1993.

Find out more on the LMA collections catalogue under reference CLC/B/016-2.

What could these records be used for?

There concerns of the retail industry are comprehensively covered by extensive series of circulars and press cuttings, as well as by minutes and reports.