Friday, July 17, 2015

London: Touring the City

This series of posts describes a study abroad course in which students visited several central banks and talked with central bankers about how they responded to—and sometimes failed to respond to—the global financial crisis, and how they are adjusting to their new roles.

by Tulsi Joshi

Finally, we’re in London! Although I can’t believe that we’ve reached the final destination in our trip, I’m really excited to be in a city that I’ve heard so much about. To commemorate our time in this global city, I don’t think there could have been a better experience than our walking tour through “The City” – the financial district of London.

We began our tour at the Monument, which symbolizes the Fire of London that destroyed 80% of the city in 1666. Although devastating, the fire provided a clean slate to rebuild London and provided the foundation for the modern city we know today. A Plague outbreak in 1665 along with the 1666 fire caused a drastic population decrease, which attracted large numbers of immigrants to London and the population was back to normal by 1670. This population increase was fostered by the River Thames, which was critical to London’s development as a financial center. As we took in the view of the river, it was easy to see just how vital it was to shaping the city and its existence. The Thames was easy to travel, reliable (especially weather wise) and fed directly into Europe’s main continent as well as other important rivers, such as the Rheine.

Coming more into colonial times, we passed the headquarters of the East India Company, and grew from the center of British trade with India to raising armies to finally its the Indian colonization. The headquarters were located next to the old Lloyds building where the company initially began its valuation of ships. As we kept walking, we also passed another building that Lloyds had shifted to, and had a rustic bell. The bell would be rung regardless of good or bad news, and once everyone had assembled the news would be announced as to not give anyone an unfair advantage. Historically, this banking sector had been run and managed by the Jewish since this was the only industry they were allowed to establish a stronghold in as to not takeaway jobs from the native British. Eventually, they were persecuted because many of the British (including the King) owed them money, and expelled as to effectively erase these debts.

We finished our tour by visiting the Royal Exchange, which is where the first traders began to trade and did business. As the tour guide left us to marvel at the Royal Exchange and all that had taken place in that building since the late 1500s. I was mesmerized to be walking through the different periods of history and how they impacted London – it felt as if the whole tour was a living, breathing museum. Of all of the experiences thus far, I knew that my fellow classmates and I were the most intrigued and amazed by this walking tour. We heard so much about the Euro crisis and the reactions by the Bank of England, but I think this walking tour truly hit the concept home because we were able to see the beginnings of finance and trading in England, one of the most powerful economies in the Eurozone and the world. The walking tour was the most appropriate experience to conclude our trip as we were able to view the past, present, and foundation of England’s financial future.

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