Too small to be of interest, too large to grasp? Histories of the Luxembourg financial centre

The importance of smaller financial centres in international capitalism has recently been highlighted by a number of ‘leaks’. Yet such public attention stands in contrast to the paucity of historiographical research on these relatively new centres. To this regard, Luxembourg provides an interesting case study. While identified as a ‘global specialist’ by the Global Financial Centres Index, the genealogy of how it came to achieve this status remains largely under-researched. This article reviews the historiography of the Luxembourg financial centre from both external perspectives – how the international social sciences and humanities have positioned the Luxembourg financial sector within the broader finance and banking context – and internal viewpoints – how scholars in Luxembourg have recounted the relevant events. The Luxembourg financial centre began to appear in international historiography only in the last fifteen years. With only rare departures from general overviews and a tendency not to consult local sources, the contributions of international historians have mostly attempted to identify time frames and contextualise the particularities of its historical development. That said, a recent geographical diversification of the literature has seen the appearance of publications that demonstrate a more detailed understanding of its internal structures and links with other nerve centres of the global financial system. While a Luxembourg historiography began to develop in the late 1970s, it has often been produced to coincide with commemorative events, funded by players in the financial centre and frequently written by these same actors. While not necessarily hagiographic in approach, a lack of distance from the subject and a failure to problematise the subject has nevertheless meant that these writings are little more than factual introductions that, while useful, are limited in their historiographical depth. Furthermore, a dearth of archival research has produced a repetitive narrative based around a selection of key events and figures.

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