By the same authors

Working-class households and savings in England, 1850-1880

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper




ConferenceBusiness History Conference
Conference date(s)13/03/1415/03/14
OtherISSN 1941-7349
Internet address

Publication details

DatePublished - Mar 2014
Original languageEnglish


Working-class employment and earnings in this period have attracted substantial debate , but knowledge of workers' use of financial institutions and mechanisms in the 19th century draws on a limited number of contemporary studies of household structure and budgets. Modern writing is heavily skewed towards exploring debt and credit in working class communities rather than saving. The British trustee savings banks that operated throughout the 19th century were designed expressly for working-class use, and solely to promote long-term saving. Despite their substantial numbers and national spread - 576 banks and 1.2 million savers by 1852 and total deposits of £225 million by 1913- there have been few studies of their use by savers. Their neglect as a data source is puzzling given the extent of the surviving depositor records, which provide long-run empirical data that includes savers’ identity, marital status and occupation as well as account balances and transactions. Our preliminary work on 4 banks - in Limehouse, East London, Newcastle, South Shields and Bury-shows results of significant interest in understanding working-class financial behaviour, including
• a substantial number of accounts opened and maintained by working-class married women before the 1870 reform of their property rights
• accounts opened and run by minors from earnings
• varied patterns of account usage, with only a minority operated for the long term, others used for regular expenses, or for targeted saving
We discuss our findings and evaluate their importance for an understanding of working-class financial behaviour in a period of significant social and economic change.


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