Bage-hot topics

4 November 2013
 
WALTER ON THE IMPACT OF RECENT HISTORY
 
One of the last-ever gems from the pen of Walter Bagehot came in a November 1876 article - mere months before his untimely death - on the impact of recent events: “The events for which one generation cares most, are often those of which the next knows least."  For the full quote, see here.



25 July 2013
 
WALTER ON FAME, REPUTATION AND POSTERITY
 
In an 1858 letter to his finance, young Walter mused rather quotably on the nature of fame, reputation and posterity, including "Posterity cannot take up little people, there are so many of them", "First rate fame – the fame of great productive artists - is a matter of ultimate certainty, but no other fame is" and "reputation must be acquired at the moment and the circumstances of the moment are matters of accident."  See the full quotation from the letter here.
 
 
 
30 June 2013
 

BAGEHOT ON THE POWER OF IMAGINATION

 

Bagehot was fond of citing common sayings and quotations of others, often to refute or amend them for his own purposes in his essays and articles.  See here for a good example about the power of imagination.

 
 
 
22 May 2013
 
WALTER ON THE RICH AND POVERTY
 

As you would expect, Walter Bagehot managed to encapsulate a complex idea in a sharp and concise way, when considering the attitude of the rich to poverty.  In 1858 he wrote, when discussing the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, “In truth, poverty is an anomaly to rich people. It is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.” Read more in the Walter’s Wise Words section here.

 
 
 
9 May 2013
 
POLITICAL CONVICTIONS - COALITION MINISTERS, TAKE NOTE
 
In an 1856 essay on Sir Robert Peel, Walter Bagehot had some wise words which present-day coalition ministers may find worth heeding.  Among them was the remark that those in a government "have to defend measures they disapprove, to object to measures they approve, to appear to have an accurate opinion on points on which they really have no opinion."  Read further here in the Walter's Wise Words section.
 
 
 
 
2 May 2013
 
E-PETITION CREATED TO PUT BAGEHOT ON A BANKNOTE
 
An e-petition has been created to ask for Walter Bagehot to be added to a future Bank of England banknote, just as has been recently announced for Winston Churchill on new £5 notes.  Please support this campaign by signing the e-petition.  More details here.

 

 

 

23 April 2013

 

BAGEHOT ON CURRENCY UNIONS

With not only the continuing Eurozone crisis, but also the raising of the political and economic profile of currency arrangements within these isles should there be an independent Scotland, read what Bagehot thought about the theory and practice of currency unions.  He wrote a lot on this subject, partly based on contemporary examples such as the Latin Monetary Union, the possible assimilation of the British (which he called the ‘English’) and American currencies, and even the notion of a single worldwide currency, and he foresaw that currency union would imply more widespread economic union.  See these extracts from his A universal money (1869) here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

 

 

 

 

8 APRIL 2013

 

BAGEHOT ON SOCIAL WELFARE

As Britain’s national health and welfare systems undergo significant structural and financial change this month, it is no surprise to see that Walter Bagehot succinctly got to the heart of the matter, with a comment all reformers in this field should have in mind.  Read what he wrote here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

 

8 APRIL 2013

Margaret Thatcher and Walter Bagehot

 To mark the announcement today of the death of Baroness Thatcher, we reproduce extracts from a speech she made in 1986, while Prime Minister, on Walter Bagehot, together with photos of her at the event, along with previous PMs here.

 

 

 

26 March 2013

THE BAGEHOT INTERPRETATION BOARD

Financed by the Bagehot Memorial Fund and designed by Belinda Magee, this splendid board is now on display in the Walter Bagehot Town Garden, just behind Langport's Town Hall.

 

 

We welcome everyone to come and enjoy this addition to Langport's attractions.

 

25 March 2013

UNVEILING

The big day has arrived! Today, Monday 25 March, sees the unveiling in the newly-renamed Walter Bagehot Town Garden in Langport of the superb new Interpretation Board commissioned by the Bagehot Memorial Fund.  It also sees the formal launch of the Fund’s public appeal for donation so that we can continue our work of commemorating Walter Bagehot.

Barry Winetrobe, chair of the Fund’s steering committee, was interviewed about today’s events on BBC Radio Somerset’s Breakfast Show this morning.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Bagehot’s death in 1877, so this is an auspicious time for these Fund activities.

Keeping watching this website, and follow our Twitter page (@bagehotlangport) for more details of how the events went today, and of the appeal launch.

 

20 March 2013

BAGEHOT ON BANK PANICS

Banking panics were a subject Walter Bagehot wrote about a lot.  With the subject suddenly front and centre again because of the Cyprus bailout crisis, read what he thought here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

10 March 2013

BAGEHOT ON CHANGE

We live in an ever-changing world – just as Walter Bagehot did in the Victorian age.  Read what he wrote in 1872 about how to deal with constant change here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

24 February 2013

WHAT TO DO WITH A HORSE

Amid the ongoing horsemeat affair, it is time to reflect on what Walter Bagehot suggested horses were obviously for. Read his concise 1856 view here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

19 February 2013

BAGEHOT ON THE QUALITY OF BOOKS AND THEIR AUTHORS

In this online age, where discussion of books nowadays seems to be more about their means of delivery than of their intrinsic merit, Walter Bagehot’s comments in an 1853 essay on the writing of good books remain just as valid 160 years later.  Read extracts from this essay here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

7 January 2013

SECOND BAGEHOT MEMORIAL DEBATE ANNOUNCED

The second Bagehot Memorial Debate will take place on Saturday 1st June 2013, as part of the 2013 Langport Community Festival.  The motion is that 'This house believes that the United Kingdom needs Scotland'.  Details of speakers will be announced in due course.

 

2 January 2013

OLYMPIC MEDALS AND PLAQUES

Two new sections have been added to the website.

One celebrates the fact that yet again people turn to Bagehot when they want a pithy saying.  A Bagehot quotation appears on one of the £5 coins issued by The Royal Mint to commemorate the Olympics.  You can read more about it here.  The other reveals details about the unveiling of the only plaques known to commemorate Bagehot - one in Langport and the other in London.  Read more here.

 

24 November 2012

BAGEHOT ON THE FREEDOM AND REGULATION OF THE PRESS

With the publication of the Leveson Report due on 29 November, the role of the press and issues of its freedom and regulation will be at the forefront of public debate.  As a young man, Walter Bagehot had the good fortune to be on hand in Paris to witness the coup d’etat of Louis Napoleon at the end of 1851, and he wrote a series of public letters on his reflections of the political situation over the following weeks.  One letter, in February 1852, dealt with the French newspaper press, and demonstrates yet again how Bagehot’s views more than a century and a half ago have a resonance to 21st century Britain.  Read extracts from this letter here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section.

 

28 October 2012

BAGEHOT ON THE VALUE OF A UNITED KINGDOM

The recent signing of the Edinburgh Agreement between David Cameron and Alex Salmond, paving the way for a Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, has brought the issue of the United Kingdom to the forefront of British politics.  In an 1870 Economist article, Bagehot opined on what he saw as the value of a United Kingdom, reproduced here in the Walter’s Words of Wisdom section. 

 

26 September 2012

BAGEHOT ON ROYAL OPINIONS

The current controversy over the BBC revelations of the Queen's alleged views on security matters has inevitably been reported with many familiar Bagehot soundbites about the role of a constitutional sovereign. For information the full quotation is reproduced in the Walter's Words of Wisdom section.

 

15 September 2012

MEDIA REPORTS DONATIONS FLOW IN FOR BAGEHOT MEMORIAL FUND

Read a local press report of the recent Langport Town Trust meeting which revealed new donations to the Bagehot Memorial Fund; the latest on plans to repair the Bagehot Grave at All Saints Churchyard, and a proposal to rename Langport’s Town Garden the Bagehot Memorial Garden.

 

6 September 2012

HOW TO DONATE

A new page with information on how to donate to the Bagehot Memorial Fund has been added to the website. How to donate.

 

23 August 2012

FUND PROPOSES FIRST STEPS TO COMMEMORATE BAGEHOT

The Bagehot Memorial Fund steering committee met on 23 August to hear of the welcome level of donations received; to discuss its future activities, and to consider the suggestions made by local people at its consultation event at Hurds Hill last month. 

Barry Winetrobe, chair of the Fund’s steering committee, said: "We are confident that the enthusiastic public response, in donations and participation, demonstrates that the work to commemorate Bagehot in his home town is worthwhile.  The Fund has only just begun, with much hard work ahead, but we are sure that it will make a valuable contribution to Langport and its people.” 

The steering committee was delighted with the variety and originality of many of the suggestions received on how best to commemorate Walter Bagehot in the Langport area.   It decided to proceed, as a priority, with the urgent repair and maintenance of the Bagehot gravesite in All Saints Churchyard.  Initial donations have been such as to make this work feasible. 

The Committee also agreed to propose to Langport Town Trust that the Town Garden be renamed the ‘Bagehot Memorial Garden’ in honour of Langport’s most famous citizen. 

Following the success of the inaugural Bagehot Memorial Debate at the first Langport Festival this spring, it was also agreed that the organisers of the 2013 Festival be asked to include a Bagehot-related event with a Victorian theme, which would have educational as well as cultural value. 

The development and growing popularity of the Walter Bagehot website, www.bagehotlangport.co.uk, was welcomed, as part of Bagehot’s and the Fund’s online presence. 

 

1 August 2012

LANGPORT FIZZING WITH IDEAS TO CELEBRATE BAGEHOT

Dozens of local people from the Langport area responded to the call for ideas on how best to celebrate its most famous citizen, the influential Victorian writer, Walter Bagehot. 

At a open evening hosted by the Bagehot Memorial Fund, at Hurds Hill, Bagehot’s family home, representatives of local councils, groups and businesses, and well as interested individuals, provided an impressive range of suggestions, from support for young people to improved signage and literature about Bagehot around the town.  Other ideas included street art, whether a statue or a more abstract public sculpture; various commemorative items and possible naming of areas of the town in Bagehot’s memory.

There was an exhibition on Bagehot’s life and work, and on his continuing relevance to this day nationally and internationally, especially on how to deal with the current banking crises.   

In a much enjoyed presentation, the famous writer, Ruth Dudley Edwards, a passionate fan of Bagehot and a keen supporter of the Fund, demonstrated how Bagehot the writer was not just insightful and influential but also witty and immensely readable, giving many examples from her published miscellany of his work.   

Barry Winetrobe, chair of the Fund’s steering committee, said: "We are delighted at the enthusiastic involvement of local people.  The sheer variety and originality of many of the ideas at the meeting and in suggestion forms will give the Fund much to consider as it develops its plans over the coming months.” 

People can submit further ideas by way of suggestion forms available at the Langport Information Centre in Bow Street.

 

30 June 2012

BBC REITH LECTURE ON BAGEHOT AND BANKING CRISES

The relevance and importance of the writings of Walter Bagehot have again been demonstrated with a new BBC Reith Lecture being largely devoted to Bagehot’s views on banking crises, as set out in his 1873 classic, Lombard Street.

 

The Reith Lectures have, since 1948, been the BBC’s flagship annual lecture series, delivered by distinguished range of speakers such as its first lecturer, Bertrand Russell, JK Galbraith, Aung San Suu Kyi and Robert Oppenheimer. 

 

The 2012 Reith Lecturer is the noted academic historian, Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University, whose topic is The rule of law and its enemies.

 

In his second lecture, The Darwinian economy, recorded at The New-York Historical Society, New York City, Professor Ferguson examines the causes of the global financial crisis, and criticises the calls for greater banking regulation. 

 

He prays in aid the arguments of Walter Bagehot, as can be seen in these extracts:

 

“In Lombard Street, published in 1873, the editor of the Economist Walter Bagehot described with great skill the way in which the City of London had evolved in his time.”

 

“No one has ever given a better description of how a bank run happens than Bagehot. Those unfamiliar with Lombard Street had to find out for themselves in 2007, at the time of the runs on Northern Rock and Countrywide - and again this year, when it was the turn of the Spanish Bankia to lose the confidence of its depositors.”

 

“By reviewing half a century of financial crises, Bagehot brilliantly showed how the Bank of England’s role as custodian of the nation’s cash reserve was quite different from its role as defined by statute or, indeed, as understood by the very men running it.”

 

“Our task, as Bagehot put it, is “to make the best of our banking system, and to work it in the best way that it is capable of. We can only use palliatives, and the point is to get the best palliative we can.”  “The problem is delicate,” as Bagehot candidly concluded his great work, and “the solution is varying and difficult”. It remains so today. But I believe a return to Bagehot’s first principles would not be a bad starting point.”

 

“In the realm of regulation, as I have said, we ought to be going back to Bagehot.”

 

Professor Ferguson followed up his praise of Bagehot’s views on banking crises regulation in “the definitive book on central banking, Lombard Street” in a new and combative episode of BBC’s face-to-face interview programme, HARDtalk, first broadcast on 4 July 2012.  You can see this interview here (available for 1 year), and hear the radio version here (available for 7 days).

Read The Darwinian economy here

 

Hear The Darwinian economy here.

 

Read Lombard Street here

Comments