An ‘Atypical’ Case? The First Emergence of Brussels as an International Financial Centre, 1830–1860<sup>*</sup>

Stefano Ugolini

in Financial Centres and International Capital Flows in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603503
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729249 | DOI:
An ‘Atypical’ Case? The First Emergence of Brussels as an International Financial Centre, 1830–1860*

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Economic historians often take for granted the idea that financial centres have followed one standard bottom-up development process, gradually evolving from commercial hubs to banking places. This chapter suggests that such an interpretation is rather simplistic. The analysis is focused on a remarkable counterexample: the sudden emergence of Brussels as an international financial centre in the mid-19th century. The case-study is articulated into five parts, each one looking at a different aspect of the growth of the new centre (capital resources, business elites, regulation, the domestic money market, and the foreign exchange market). The conclusion is that the top-down process observed in the Brussels experience sheds light on the fact that semi-institutional actors (such as central banks, or commercial banks connected to the political power) can successfully enact specific policies aimed at enhancing local financial development.

Keywords: financial centres; development; institutions; financial intermediation; money markets; stock markets; business elites; regulation

Chapter.  8497 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Business History

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