Bank of England cannot ignore history of slavery, governor says

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey poses for a photograph on the first day of his new role at the Central Bank in London

LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England should not brush aside links that some of its early governors had with the slave trade, because the central bank still derives influence from its 326-year history, Governor Andrew Bailey said on Tuesday.

Bailey said the Black Lives Matter protests had caused the BoE to take a closer look at the early years of its history, when governors were often London merchants, some of whom had ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“It shines a light on other parts of our history that we don’t celebrate,” Bailey said at a seminar on economic history hosted by King’s College London.

In June, the BoE said it was never directly involved in the slave trade, but that it would take down any portraits still on display of former governors and directors who were.

Bailey said the historical questions raised went beyond just portraits, and that it was too simple to dismiss slavery as something that happened long ago, as the BoE’s credibility today rested in part on its long-standing history.

“While we have no time for the so-called values of the past that condoned slavery and the slave trade, our institutional standing as the Bank of England benefits in some part at least from the continuity of our existence,” he said.

“That is a challenge I think in today’s world,” he added.

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Britain banned the trade in slaves in 1807, but slave ownership remained legal in British colonies in the Caribbean until the 1830s.

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