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Crossing Continents

A History of Standard Chartered Bank


Now due for publication by Penguin Allen Lane in May 2021 is Crossing Continents: A History of Standard Chartered Bank (944 pp). The directors of Standard Chartered commissioned this history of their Group in February 2011 and its publication had to be postponed in October 2016.

The book traces the history of the Group from its origins in the middle of the 19th century to the present day and draws on more than 170 interviews with employees past and present. In the course of my research I was also able to draw upon the Group’s remarkable collection of archived records, including its Board papers which run without a break from 1853 to 2014.

The front cover of the dust jacket (right) carries a photograph taken at the end of the 1890s. It shows four merchant vessels, berthed in Calcutta’s Hooghly River. The busy riverside scene around them catches a flavour of the trading links that underpinned the British Empire everywhere across Africa and Asia – and that depended crucially, for well over a century starting in the 1850s, on the trade-financing capital and expertise of the City of London’s overseas banks.

Two of the foremost names among these overseas banks were the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China on the one hand and the Standard Bank of South Africa on the other, founded respectively in 1853 and 1862. Crossing Continents traces their separate histories from the glory days of the pre-1914 global era through the setbacks and world wars of the twentieth century.

The two banks were merged together in 1969 to form Standard Chartered Group, a business that its architects believed at the outset might logically build upon the commercial legacy of its forebears. Crossing Continents tells how this original vision almost came to grief over the next twenty years, and how it was then revived and substantially realised in some powerful and surprising ways. The modern story, stretched across half a century, provides an unusual slant on the evolution of international finance in recent times.

To see this title in the publisher’s catalogue, go to Penguin’s catalogue page, click on Penguin Press Spring/Summer 2021 and scroll down to page 30.


Crossing Continents


Crossing Continents