Bank of England puts banknote candidates to the acid test

by Björn Schöpe

October 24, 2013 – Lately a rather vivid discussion has arisen over women on banknotes (or rather their absence), the choice between Winston Churchill and Jane Austen (now both of them will appear, first the politician, in 2017 the writer) and the bank’s policy of choosing the honoured personalities in general. Now, British newspaper Daily Mail has received documents of the Bank of England showing how the bank checked the candidates for new banknotes.

Actually bank staff thought intensively about the candidates. Although many parts of the document were redacted – as it is common practice when Britain’s international relations may be impacted – it was said that some of the staff feared Germany might feel offended by choosing Winston Churchill due to his being a key figure in the war. In Britain, though, another matter was seen as possible point of criticism: Churchill’s decision to return to the gold standard which his critics considered as leading to inflation and mass unemployment.
The staff checked thoroughly Jane Austen’s private life which does not lack a certain irony. Apparently they feared affairs – although without reason – however this aspect was immaterial when choosing Charles Dickens to appear on a banknote. And so we turn back again to the question how much the point that Austen was a woman influenced the choice. In 1984 Austen was proposed already but refuted because she lacked of ‘suitable art work.’ Since no new works of her have emerged in the meantime this adds just another point to the position that she was set aside for a man.
No matter how you look at the results it has become quite clear that we cannot blame the Bank of England of not paying attention to their candidates for new banknotes.

You can read the Daily Mail article here.

We reported on the controversy over the choice between Austen and Churchill in CoinsWeekly here, here and here.

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