ABSTRACT

For British overseas banks, the period between the mid-1930s and the late 1940s was dominated by wars, rumours of wars and political upheaval. Bankers were forced to think and plan in terms of contingencies rather than opportunities. The likelihood of conflict in Europe persisted throughout the 1930s, while the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 marked the shift of military danger on to a global stage. Even in the post-war period, conflict and revolution were more immediate concerns than peaceful reconstruction. The Mercantile Bank and many other British overseas banks faced uncertainty in all their markets in these years. The bank's readiness and its ability to adapt to sudden change were to be severely tested, not only in the expected conflict in Europe but also in the volatile and unknown context of a Pacific war.