A simple form of banking was practiced by the ancient temples of Egypt, Babylonia, and Greece, which loaned at high rates of interest the gold and silver deposited for safekeeping. Private banking existed by 600 B.C. and was considerably developed by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. Medieval banking was dominated by the Jews and Levantines because of the strictures of the Christian Church against interest and because many other occupations were largely closed to Jews. The forerunners of modern banks were frequently chartered for a specific purpose, e.g., the Bank of Venice (1171) and the Bank of England (1694), in connection with loans to the government; the Bank of Amsterdam (1609), to receive deposits of gold and silver. Banking developed rapidly throughout the 18th and 19th cent., accompanying the expansion of industry and trade, with each nation evolving the distinctive forms peculiar to its economic and social life.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.