Current Scholarship
Histories of Bank Supervision

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Author: Sean Vanatta

In this essay, I make the case for the historical study of bank supervision—both that historical methods are necessary to understanding the shape and structure of supervision in the present and that the study of supervision will contribute to active and important historiographical debates. First, I summarize how scholars—including my own work, with Peter Conti-Brown—are grappling with the definitional complexities of supervision as a set of layered, overlapping, and contingent governing practices. Then, I survey the extant sources of supervisory history; briefly because they are so few, largely comprised of institutional histories of supervisory institutions, as well as memoirs and biographies of practitioners. Finally, I offer a prospective historical agenda, in two parts. I narrate a history of supervision in the United States through the New Deal to demonstrate where the history of supervision, once further developed, will contribute to debates about the co-development of financial institutions and regulatory governance. Then, I suggest ways that supervisory history can also enrich—and be enriched by—histories of science, gender, race, and sexuality. In sum, this essay suggests paths forward for scholars for whom bank supervision is self-evidently important and for those who may have never encountered the term before.

Vanatta, Sean, Histories of Bank Supervision (December 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3749116 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3749116