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Communities and representation on bank notes

The time is now ripe to engage in a broader discussion about what these images of finance signify. Such debates have taken place recently in the public eye with a greater inclusion of women, most notably Jane Austen in England and Wales, on the new wave of more secure polymer bank notes. Yet, this conversation is now far more pertinent because we are at turning point. With the passing of the Queen, English bank notes will now be redesigned. This will also be the case in many of the Commonwealth Countries, where her face remains etched on notes, bills and coins. Furthermore, as the UK and other countries with developed financial technology infrastructure move away from cash transactions, there are still substantial groups of population who rely on cash in their daily lives. These people, who tend to be less fintech-savvy, with limited or no access to internet and smart devices, also are more likely to be disadvantaged in other ways. It is, therefore, important that the design of notes and coins reflects inclusivity and assurance of belonging to the modern society.

This project examines the visual designs of the modern and historical bank notes and coins, together with other financial instruments. As money is passed through communities, the images displayed on them often present representations of characters and members of those societies. It also serves as an indication of those who govern and regulate those entities. These designs inspire confidence in the country’s financial system and ensure its stability as well as the acceptance of the bank note as a form of legal tender.

This project explores the monetary designs from local, national, regional and supra-national issuers. It shows how different design schemes have been chosen and how these create bonds between monetary institutions and those in wider society who use these documents as a tool for financial exchange. It shines a light on a multitude of different designs that could now be adopted in this moment of change in the English-speaking world.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Victoria Barnes - Dr Victoria Barnes is Reader in Commercial Law.  She serves as Director of Research.  Her research examines contract, commercial and corporate law from transnational, comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives.  She unpicks pivotal historic events, such as landmark cases, and places them in context.  Her work traces the way organisations, legal principles and doctrines have developed through time.  She focusses often on the history of the banking and financial industry and its regulation.  Global actors, such as judges, lawyers, and other influential figures, including CEOs, feature heavily in her work as catalysts for socio-legal change.  Her work has an empirical bent, especially with its emphasis on quantification and quantitative methods.  She has published around 50 journal articles and book chapters on these themes.  Victoria is co-editor of Business History (Taylor and Francis), the flagship journal for UK & Europe recognised for its quality and rigour, ranked 4/4* by the 2021 Academic Journal Guide (formerly Association of Business School list).  She co-edits a new book series on "Global Studies Commercial and Financial Law" (Edinburgh University Press).  It brings together scholarship from around the world about multinational enterprises, sales law, agency and trade law.  She serves as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Legal History (Taylor and Francis), which is the only British journal concerned solely with legal history.  She has benefitted from visiting, honorary or guest positions, holding roles, for example, at the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Exeter.  Before joining Brunel, she worked at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt and Georgetown University in Washington DC.   Victoria is involved in several different scholarly communties.  This year, Victoria hosts the Society of Legal Scholars’ Annual Seminar on "the Origins of Company Law", the WG Hart Workshop on "Theorists in Company Law", and the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Seminar on "Fantasty Legal Exhibitions".  She set up the Minerva LAW Network, which invites women judges, law commissioners, professional trainers and partners in law firms, to give career advice to international lawyers and improve the employability of PhD candidates and ECRs in fields where women are still underrepresented. She runs the "Law, History and Visual Culture Seminar Series", which has thus far hosted around 50 speakers analysing paintings, portraits, comics, films and objects at the intersection between law and history. She also founded the "Global Corporate Law Seminar Series", which gathers those researching company law from around the world to exchange ideas about corporate regulation.  She also serves as a Trustee for the Business History Conference, which was founded in 1954 in the United States to foster research on the environment in which enterprises operate in.

Related Research Group(s)

corporate buildings

Law, Economics and Finance - The Centre for Law, Economics and Finance aims to advance the wider societal impact of our research by engaging with policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholder.

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UKRI Research England

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Project last modified 14/04/2023