Abstract: Bankers and Banks as Evil in Literature, Newspapers and Movies: The French Case from the 1830s till Today

Hubert Bonin


Mixing connections between business history and literature and arts, we intend to apply to banking history the issue of the assessment of the "perception" of banks (and bankers) by society and public opinion with a long-term scope. Perception has become a key issue of business, because of the building of corporate image and of PR policies; banks and bankers had to face the challenge of their perception because of the discrepancy between their (supposedly) useful contribution to industrial revolutions and growth on one side and their negative image among society in general, among state and business elites, and within public opinion. Such a perception can be analyzed by a banking historian through a precise reading of old novels and newspapers, a coverage of paintings about bankers and their environment, and, lately, through the screening of a few movies dedicated to financial events and milieux. Our study should also take into account Ranald Michie's recent book about the perception of British banks. We also intend to describe how banks (and bankers) reacted to such a misperception and set up policies to improve their image. Such topics have rarely been tackled in French banking history, and our recent studies in archives and libraries—to be still broadened in the months ahead—have started to pave the way to path-breaking analysis. This latter will mix cultural history and business (and banking) history in order to place this part of banking history within a large framework of sociological history, institutional communication, and literature and the arts: the cultural impact of banking.