Duncan Campbell-Smith

Author and historian

Recently completed and scheduled for publication by Penguin Allen Lane (date to be confirmed) is my new book, Crossing Continents: A History of Standard Chartered Bank. The front cover of the dust jacket (see image, right, and advance copies of the book below) carries a photograph taken at the end of the 1890s. It shows four merchant vessels, berthed in Calcutta’s Hooghly River. The busy riverside scene around them catches a flavour of the trading links that underpinned the British Empire everywhere across Africa and Asia – and that depended crucially, for well over a century starting in the 1850s, on the trade-financing capital and expertise of the City of London’s overseas banks.

Two of the foremost names among them were the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China on the one hand and the Standard Bank of South Africa on the other, founded respectively in 1853 and 1862. Crossing Continents traces their separate histories from the glory days of the pre-1914 global era through the setbacks and world wars of the twentieth century.

The two banks were merged together in 1969 to form Standard Chartered Bank, a business that its architects believed at the outset might logically build upon the commercial legacy of its forebears. Crossing Continents tells how this original vision almost came to grief over the next twenty years, and how it was then revived and substantially realised in some powerful and surprising ways. The modern story, stretched across almost half a century, provides an unusual slant on the evolution of international finance in recent times.

My previous books include the authorized history of Britain's Royal Mail, entitled Masters of the Post, which was published by Penguin Allen Lane in November 2011. This won the BAC Wadsworth Prize for Business History, an award made annually by the British Archives Council. It was published as a Penguin paperback in November 2012.

I hold Visiting Research Fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research and at the Centre for Contemporary British History at King's College, London.

Crossing Continents: A History of Standard Chartered Bank