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Rebuilding ‘The Heart of the Empire’: bank headquarters in the City of London, 1919–1939

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Between 1919 and 1939 the landscape of the City of London’s central financial district underwent a sustained transformation as the Bank of England and other major financial institutions rebuilt their headquarters in the heart of the City. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the landscape captured in the foreground of Niels Lund’s celebrated painting The Heart of the Empire had radically changed. Surprisingly, given the immense historical important of the City in English cultural identity and economic life, this transformation of its built environment has received remarkably little attention. This paper presents a detailed evaluation of this changing landscape of finance within a conceptual framework that emphasizes important relationships between money, architecture and social power. Working through a series of ‘deep’ descriptions of the key rebuilding projects involved, the paper highlights how late-imperial visions of finance and empire provided an unique cultural and ideological context for this new palatial landscape of finance.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: King7rsquo;s College, London

Publication date: 1999-11-01

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