School Trip to the Bank of England

Yesterday a group of us from the economics department went to the Bank of England in London. We spent time in the Bank of England Museum before having a talk about the history of the museum, bank notes and gold.

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The museum is a number of things, but perhaps most obviously it’s a museum of economics; in the main hall there’s a number of displays talking about the monetary system; definitions of inflation, for example:

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It’s hugely important to have quick and easy definitions for terms like inflation, money, and quantitative easing. If nothing else, you can at least prove your friends wrong when they make grand assertions about economic matters.

The opening hall is full of exhibits that make the point that monetary policymaking is hard work:

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Here, you can pull up and down the lever on the right to affect where the ball is, between deflation and inflation of 10%+. The problem is that on the left there’s an “economic shock” which makes it very hard to ever get the ball to 2%. Not too dissimilar to the outcomes of actual inflation over recent years…

What is an economic shock? Another exhibit had genuine BBC news footage from throughout recent decades from events such as the oil crises in the 1970s, the stock market crash of 1987 and the UK’s exit from ERM in 1992 – all huge events that had considerable impacts on wider economic activity.

Perhaps the most exciting exhibit is a bar of gold – value close on £300,000! As you can see, high security:

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The talk we had talked through the history of a state bank and central bank and how it developed, along with the development of bank notes from bits of paper to the soon-to-be plastic £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes we now use.

All in all, a fascinating museum, educational and good fun at the same time. If you are in London and within easy reach of the Bank, I’d highly recommend getting along – it’s free!