Post offices, payments and the central bank.. finding the crucial letter of De Nederlandsche Bank

Yesterday I blogged about the end of the era of Post Offices here in the Netherlands. And with that, both the Postal Office and the postal order as a payment instrument are officially gone in the Netherlands.

It's interesting to realize that about 100 years ago the situation was quite different. The economy required smooth payments and funds for the business community. And there was quite some debate on the possible introduction of a national giro-system. How that debate proceeded is a long story, but suffice to say that the central bank (De Nederlandsche Bank, DNB) was asked their opinion about starting a girosystem in the Netherlands.

DNB replied that it did not have the means and resources but suggested as an alternative to lower the fees for the postal order. Yet, the actual letter in which DNB wrote this to the Ministry of Finance, could for a long time not be found. The official historian of DNB couldn't get it, no one could and we were left with a footnote in the official historiography of DNB that the letter could not be found.

Well, that footnote triggered my curiosity and so I went searching in the national archives and used some lateral thinking. And there it was. In the archives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Before me, the letter of DNB of April 15, 1910, outlining that DNB themselves would not be able to set up a giro system. As such this kickstarted and paved the way for the further development and introduction of the PCGD.

Perhaps you can imagine the rush of sensation that came over me when I found this letter (already about 10 years ago). At that point in time I still thought I would quickly finish my PhD on the history of payments in the Netherlands. My plan has changed a bit however. While I may still sometime officially finalize that PhD-research-project I intend to publish bits and parts of my research on this blog.

So while I am busy writing a 'light-version' of the history of payments/banking in the Netherlands, it is with pride that I present the bit of Dutch financial history contained in this weblog: the letter of De Nederlandsche Bank NV on the introduction of girosystems in the Netherlands.