Digital history & historiography


“Pecunia non olet”. Ironically, this Latin dictum strongly relates to the 20th and 21st century if one considers how banks dematerialised constantly money and changed the way a society deals with deposits. By implementing quite radical changes to the concept of money, banks became an accelerating element for social and technological innovation. Our research project within the field of computerisation and digitalisation concentrates on banking activities and services from a European perspective. Banks’ communication regarding credit cards and cashless payments is at the heart of this research. The study intertwines several case studies in selected European countries (i.e., Luxembourg, Germany, France). In particular, the study focuses on the following bank services: automated teller machines, bankcards (especially MasterCard and Eurocard) and home banking since the emergence of Minitel, Vidéotex, or Btx.

The comparative and diachronic perspective of this study, starting from the 1960s onwards, aims at shedding light on a history which has often only been seen from an insider’s perspective. It should be noted that our focus is primarily the communication strategies of banks and their related advertisement campaigns for credit cards and cashless payments. This is achieved by focusing on the strategy of the banks and their economic, technical, digital, but also societal approaches. The research topic relates to contemporary history, the history of digitalisation and innovation. In this context, press, audio-visual materials, banking reports, advertising, oral history, as well as web archives serve as primary sources. Moreover, bank archives in Luxembourg, France and Germany are used to complete the study corpus.

All in all, the research results help us to understand the high complex world of banking services from an unusual research angle. Therefore, the research topic changes the current scientific standard of banking history by including the perspective of various actors of the European payment market as well as their perception of banking innovations over the years (1968 – 2015) and by analysing a European transnational corpus. Furthermore, by analysing the history of the Eurocard and its relation to MasterCard in a long-term perspective, we offer a novel approach.

It helps to enrich the field of banking history, which is slowly changing and introducing different research angles, thanks to pioneering research by Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo, Sabine Effosse, David Sparks Evans, Richard Schmalensee, Lana Schwartz, Sebastian Gießmann and others. In this respect, this PhD research aims to add a milestone to historical research on banking innovation and retail banking which is still in its early stages but is moving fast, driven forward in particular by the pioneers mentioned above.

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