Social Scientist. v 16, no. 184 (Sept 1988) p. 65.


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REVIEW ARTICLE

'The Evolution of the State Bank of India':

Some Comments

Amiya Bagchi, The Evolution of the State Bank of India (Parta I & II), Oxford University Press, Bombay.

Amiya Bagchi's book The Evolution of the State Bank of India (Parts I and II) published by the Oxford University Press, Bombay, compromises the first two instalments of a history of the State Bank of India commissioned by the Bank. The first part of the book discusses the period 1806 to 1861-the two years respectively saw the first meeting of the Board of Directively saw the first meeting of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Calcutta and the passing of the Paper Currency Act that centralized the issue of paper currency in the hands of the government. The second part continues the narrative up to 1876, when the Presidency Banks Act was passed resulting in the withdrawal of government's shareholding in the Presidency Banks.

This period not only marks the founding of the three Presidency Banks-all three banks passed through important vicissitudes during this period. The Bank of Bengal, oldest of the three, passed through an early prosperity, survived the agency house crisis of 1820-30 and somewhat later a short-lived but tough challenge from the Union Bank. The (old) Bank of Bombay born in 1840 in the midst of growing demand for working capital for the flourishing opium and cotton trade succumbed in less than two decades ,to the perilous overstretch during the cotton boom arising from the American Civil War. The (new) Bank of Bombay floated almost immediately after the collapse of the old Bank, got itself firmly placed in the rising tide of prosperity 6f Bombay, though it had to face competition from the Bank of Bengal. The (Presidency) Bank of Madras replaced the government- owned Bank of Madras in 1843, reflecting the business community's needs for somewhat more flexible lending rules than were piactised by the old bank. Within a year of its inception it faced a severe crisis-the so-called specie crisis. Essentially because of bad asset management, the bank had locked up most of its assets in government securities which had a very poor market in Madras, while letting its current liabilities rise. While the specie crisis was soon over, the bank took years to show



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