Exhibition: Barings and the First World War

1: Introduction

Such a general cataclysm

The First World War began on 28 July 1914 and Britain joined the conflict on 4 August. Within days it became apparent that the machinery of international credit was breaking down under the strain. Gaspard Farrer, one of Barings' partners, observed on 7 August "I do not see how it is possible to guard against such a general cataclysm as we have had, but it is none the less mortifying in the extreme to find how instantaneously the credit edifice which we have been building for generations could tumble to pieces in a night."

In the office there were upheavals, as young men went to war and women arrived to take on some of their tasks. John Baring, 2nd Lord Revelstoke, Barings' senior partner, found that his financial knowledge was called upon by the British government.

Although some elements of Barings' work came to an abrupt halt, other areas - such as war-related work for the Russian government - became increasingly busy. Barings were also involved, at various times, in supporting the Dutch guilder and Russian rouble currency exchanges, which were struggling under the strain of the war.

The end of the war found Barings a changed firm needing to re-establish its role and business in a world that had also changed and was continuing to do so.

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