Invitation to Tender: Scoping Study for City Lives Revisited

Posted on 02/08/2016 by


National Life Stories is seeking to employ a freelance consultant in order to complete a Scoping Study  to inform its rationale, structure, timeframe and identify potential funders.

Between 1987 and 1997 National Life Stories (NLS) explored the inner world of Britain’s financial capital and gathered 150 in-depth biographical recordings with men and women from the Stock Exchange, the merchant and clearing banks, the commodities and futures markets, law and accounting firms, financial regulators, insurance companies and Lloyd’s of London. The City Lives project is a unique record of the complex interrelationships and dramatic changes which defined the Square Mile in the late twentieth century.

The first City Lives interviews (BL catalogue no. C409) were made in time to capture a substantial body of memories of the days when London’s financial sector was concentrated in the Square Mile and British family banking dynasties conducted business in a manner handed down from the previous century. By the time the project ended, the effects of Big Bang, including the influx of powerful overseas securities firms, and the geographical pull of Canary Wharf had changed the landscape completely. Many of the well-known names had vanished – Barings Bank being only one of them – and the shift to screen-based electronic trading had swept away traditional working methods and relationships. City Lives documents personal accounts and pivotal moments, among them the British Aluminium battle, the arrival of women traders at the Stock Exchange, the privatisation of British Telecom, the Big Bang in 1986, the 1987 Crash, the creation of LIFFE and the rise in power of the American banks in London. Inadvertently, the project caught the zeitgeist of the City before 9/11, an atmosphere that seems unlikely to return.

City Lives: The Changing Voices of British Finance by Cathy Courtney and Paul Thompson (Methuen, 1996) was edited from the interviews, and 76 interviews are now available online worldwide in their entirety as part of a new ‘Banking and Finance’ package at for use by scholars and researchers and anyone interested in the City.  The BL’s oral history collections also include other interviews related to banking and finance notably The Jobbing System of the London Stock Exchange: An Oral History (C463), An Oral History of Barings (C1367), the Kynaston London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange (LIFFE) Interviews (C1053) and the Kynaston Phillips & Drew Interviews (C1054).

Much has happened in the City and in the UK’s financial sector since 1997 and NLS is now planning to initiate a new oral history programme – City Lives Revisited – to document the key recent changes that have occurred. We now want to commission a Scoping Study to assess existing oral history collections relating to the UK’s finance sector, both at the British Library and more widely, and make recommendations about the scope and scale for a new programme of interviews.

For further details and contact information, please download NLS City Lives scoping study tender August 2016 (1)