Class Formation and Localism in an Emerging Bureaucracy: British Bank Workers, 1880–1960


This article uses a case study of the spatial and career mobility of bank workers from Lloyds, a leading British bank, to explore the relationship between class formation and spatial mobility. The article argues against the idea that the large‐scale concentration and bureaucratization of the British banking industry in the early years of the twentieth century saw the emergence of a mobile middle‐class spiralist or cosmopolitan. We use archival data from Lloyds Bank to argue that the emergence of Lloyds as a large‐scale national bank involved a compromise with localized interests rather than a detachment of the bank from local concerns. We use data on the career histories of a representative sample of male bank employees to argue that spatial mobility was organized largely within regions and helped to consolidate the prospects of rural bank workers. We argue that London emerged as a distinctive ‘hub’ for banking careers, with significant amounts of movement to and from London from all regions. We therefore demonstrate how localized and rural cultures were sedimented within a large, national bureaucracy, and that a genuine ‘spiralist’ structure did not emerge.