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At the start of the Victorian period, the General Post Office began to reinvent itself: from a revenue-raising state department to a public service, an institution vital to the nation’s material, intellectual, and moral development. This chapter argues that the 1830s campaign for postal reform, and the changes to the postal service it prompted in the following decades, ought to be understood in reciprocal relation to the operations and ideologies of other literary institutions – and to the institution of literature more broadly conceived.
The essay pursues two lines of enquiry: first, it seeks to demonstrate how changing Post Office regulations and policies – especially the reduction of postage in 1840 and introduction of the book post in 1858 – shaped literary production, consumption, and circulation, contributing to an apparent democratisation of the literary public sphere. Second, it examines the significance of literary idea(l)s to the Post Office’s institutional culture. Drawing on a range of materials, including postal reform propaganda, Post Office records, and (largely non-canonical) poetry about the penny post, the chapter argues that early Victorian writers worked to create the impression that the Post Office, by facilitating affective, economic, and cultural connection, performed a cultural work analogous to that of literature.
Seeking to reach the unbanked, the US Postal Savings System provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel data sets on postal deposits, demographic characteristics, and banks, we study how and by whom the system was used. We find the program was initially used by nonfarming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investments for the wealthy during the 1940s. Postal Savings was only a partial substitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often still heavily used Postal Savings.
The foreign establishment in early republican China had many facets: territory, people, rights established by treaty or unilaterally asserted, armed force, diplomacy, religion, commerce, journalism, freebooting adventure, racial attitudes. This chapter describes briefly the dimensions of each of the principal guises in which the foreigner impinged upon the polity, economy, society and mind of China. In the absence of modern financial institutions in China, the early foreign merchant houses undertook to provide for themselves many of the auxiliary services such as banking, foreign exchange and insurance essential to their import-export businesses. However, by the second decade of the twentieth century, 12 foreign banks were operating in China. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, 85 to 90 per cent of China's foreign trade by value was carried in foreign flag vessels. The foreign presence was highly visible in three departments of the central government: the Maritime Customs Service, the Post Office and the Salt Administration.
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