The Bank of England and Central Bank Credit Rationing During the Crisis of 1847: Frosted Glass or Raised Eyebrows?

58 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2019

See all articles by Michael Anson

Michael Anson

Bank of England

David Bholat

Bank of England

Miao Kang

Bank of England

Kilian Rieder

University of Oxford

Ryland Thomas

Bank of England - Monetary Analysis

Date Written: April 26, 2019

Abstract

It is well known that quantitative credit restrictions, rather than Bagehot-style ‘free lending’ constituted the standard response to financial crises in the early days of central banking. But why did central banks in the past frequently restrict the supply of loans during financial crises? In this paper, we draw on a large novel, loan-level data set to study the Bank of England’s policy response to the crisis of 1847. We find that credit rationing due to residual imperfect information in the sense of Stiglitz and Weiss (1981) cannot be a convincing explanation for quantitative credit restrictions during the crisis of 1847. We provide preliminary evidence which could suggest that discriminatory credit rationing on the basis of loan applicants’ type and identity characterized the Bank of England’s (BoE’s) response to the crisis of 1847. Our results also show that collateral characteristics played an important role in the BoE’s loan decisions, even after controlling for the identity of loan applicants. This finding confirms the hypothesis in Capie (2002) and Flandreau and Ugolini (2011, 2013, 2014) that the characteristics of bills of exchange submitted to the discount window mattered. Since our results suggest that the Bank also took decisions on the basis of the identity of loan applicants, our preliminary findings would seem to challenge Capie’s ‘frosted glass’ metaphor, but more work is required to confirm these conjectures.

Keywords: Credit rationing, lender of last resort, collateral management

JEL Classification: E44, E52, E58, G21, N12, N2

Suggested Citation

Anson, Michael and Bholat, David and Kang, Miao and Rieder, Kilian and Thomas, Ryland, The Bank of England and Central Bank Credit Rationing During the Crisis of 1847: Frosted Glass or Raised Eyebrows? (April 26, 2019). Bank of England Working Paper No. 794, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3378601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3378601

Michael Anson

Bank of England ( email )

Threadneedle Street
London, EC2R 8AH
United Kingdom

David Bholat (Contact Author)

Bank of England ( email )

Threadneedle Street
London, EC2R 8AH
United Kingdom

Miao Kang

Bank of England ( email )

Threadneedle Street
London, EC2R 8AH
United Kingdom

Kilian Rieder

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Ryland Thomas

Bank of England - Monetary Analysis ( email )

Threadneedle Street
London EC2R 8AH
United Kingdom

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