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May saw the publication, finally, of a book that I began researching in 2011. It tells the remarkable story of an international banking business, founded in the middle of the 19th century and still going strong. Entitled Crossing Continents, A History of the Standard Chartered Bank, it has been published — and beautifully produced with many fine illustrations, maps and charts — by Penguin Allen Lane.
Duncan Campbell-Smith’s sparkling new account of Standard Chartered Bank … is a door-stopping, desk-breaking heavyweight tome … of patient text and brilliantly evocative photographs. Campbell-Smith, a former banker and journalist, had access to Standard Chartered’s rich archive, and what emerges is work of painstaking scholarship. Multiple sources are woven together into a compelling record of imperial and post-imperial banking, the white men responsible and the lives they led. (Philip Augar in FT Weekend, 5-6 June 2021)
Also recently released is my biography of Sir Frank Whittle, an extraordinary man who certainly deserves to be a household name in Britain (but assuredly isn’t), and whose feats as an aero-engineer helped to change the world. JET MAN: The Making and Breaking of Frank Whittle, Genius of the Jet Revolution was published by Head of Zeus in December 2020 and chronicles the origins of the jet engine between 1929 and 1945. Whittle fired the first jet ever assembled in April 1937 — and given just a little more support from officialdom in Whitehall, his genius might have changed the course of the Second World War. The paperback edition is due out in August 2021.
(To mark the 80th anniversary of the first flight of Whittle’s jet engine, on 15 May 1941, the BBC ran an excellent article about his life and achievements on its website: Frank Whittle: The underrated British hero who built a jet engine.)
It looks as though the courts still have a lot more work to do, redressing the miscarriage of justice involving Britain’s Post Office and its treatment of hundreds of self-employed postmasters and postmistresses — a scandal that continues to reverberate at Westminster. The full background to the egregious mistakes made over the installation into post offices of a half-baked computer system in the late 1990s can be found in my history of Britain’s postal services, Masters of the Post, The Authorized History of the Royal Mail. Published by Penguin Allen Lane in November 2011, it came out in paperback in 2012. (See also an article I wrote for The Spectator in June 2020, How the Post Office Lost Its Way.)
These three books and two others published in earlier years are all featured on this website.