Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 September 2018
A project to build a comprehensive database of the Bank of France's published accounts covering its entire history was launched in 2001 with the support of the Bank's Mission Historique. This article introduces its main outcome: a dataset based on the weekly balance sheets – the so-called situations hebdomadaires – covering more than a century and a half of history from 1840 to 1998. After a brief outline of the historical evolution of the Bank's legal status and a description of the publication outlets for the data, the article pays special attention to the issues of transparency and accountability. For that purpose, it reconstructs on the basis of archival records the debate over the disclosure of the Bank's figures (what to publish, how frequently) that took place, both within the Bank and between the Bank and the government, at various turning points in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Finally, the article explains how the presentation of the situations changed over time, paying special attention to the impact of World Wars I and II. The full database with metadata information is attached to the electronic version of this article and downloadable as an Excel file from the FHR website, together with an extensive review of the literature on the history of the Bank of France.
This paper was originally prepared for the workshop on ‘Central banks' balance sheets’ held at the 10th Conference of the SEEMHN (South-Eastern European Monetary History Network), 1 October 2015, and hosted by the Bank of Austria in Vienna. The author thanks the conference organisers for their hospitality and the participants for their useful feedback. He also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Banque de France in both the collection and the organisation of the data, especially Arnaud Manas. Finally, he is grateful to two anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions on a previous draft of the paper and is immensely indebted to Stefano Battilossi for his invaluable support and help in the publication process. All remaining errors are of course mine.
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