Barclays Bank: records of international operations: head office departments

Scope and Content

This collection comprises the records of head office departments, from the formation of Barclays' overseas subsidiary in 1925 to the major reorganization of the Group under the Barclays Bank Act of 1984 which effectively brought together the domestic and international businesses. Some of the items in the collection pre-date the formation of Barclays' original overseas subsidiary, including a series of early photographs depicting branches inherited by Barclays when it acquired the constituent banks.

The departments whose records are represented include:

  • Accountant: daily report books 1926-68, balance sheets, profit and loss files 1940s-50s, writing-off register, records of note issue, ledgers (investment, head office, general, staff provident fund, premises); papers re participation in World Bank loans
  • Advertising & Marketing: artwork and examples of advertising c1950 onwards
  • Barclays Development Fund: proposals, reports on overseas aid, co-operatives, correspondence with other agencies, 1966-80
  • Business Development: organization and methods reports 1960s-70s, papers re establishment of foreign exchange office 1969-70
  • Economics Adviser: Oxford Records Development Project papers
  • General Managers' Office: Colonial Bank staff register 1890-1927, overseas currency board records, head office circulars and instructions, agreements with other banks esp South Africa; correspondence and reports on many subjects inc German credit crisis 1930s, Palestine emergency 1930s-40s, Egyptian crisis 1956, international trade inc cotton, sugar, wool, diamonds, gold, citrus, cocoa, tea, coffee, groundnuts, sisal, rice, motor car export to South Africa 1930s; business in overseas territories: visit reports, half-yearly reviews and inspections; foreign exchange business 1930s-40s, education and training 1970s, charitable donations; advances records inc Barclays Overseas Development Corporation 1946-59, projected trends 1960s; registers of limits, bad and doubtful debts; minutes of local boards; papers re exchange controls, banking competition in overseas territories, planning, automation; Bullock Report 1976-77, services for Commonwealth immigrants, sponsorship of Everest expedition 1975; files re apartheid in South Africa; export credit guarantees 1960s-70s; classified debt returns 1960s-70s
  • Intelligence: instructions re function of department 1930
  • Investment Manager's Office: valuations, memoranda and reports c1950-1970s, returns to Bank of England 1962-77
  • Overseas local head offices: implementation of management by objectives 1968-73
  • Planning: expansion in USA 1966-74
  • Premises: photographs and plans of overseas and UK branches and staff housing, papers re redevelopment of head office 1948-76; Exodus Project: satellite head office at Poole 1969-75
  • Secretary: Colonial Banks Acts 19th century -1925, memorandum and articles, AGM papers and reports, directors' files, registers of shareholders, colonial development essay competition entries 1943-46, sealing registers
  • Staff: staff magazines 1946 onwards, rulebooks and handbooks, correspondence with staff on active service 1939-45
  • Stationery: examples of cheques, notes, telegraphic code books

Administrative / Biographical History

The international arm of Barclays was established by Frederick Goodenough, executive chairman of Barclays 1917-34. He conceived the idea of an Empire bank, providing retail and commercial banking along British lines throughout the sterling area and able to transfer funds through London to any part of the organization as required.

The new privately owned subsidiary - Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) - was created from three established banks (two of them City-based), acquired by Barclays as follows:

  • Colonial Bank: founded by royal charter in 1836 to trade in the West Indies, and, from 1916, empowered to extend its operations throughout the Empire. In 1917 a working agreement gave Barclays access to The Colonial's markets in West Africa, and in 1918-19 Barclays acquired a controlling interest in the Bank
  • National Bank of South Africa: established in 1890 in Transvaal (head office at Pretoria), it absorbed banks with older roots in South Africa and had a holding in the Colonial Bank. Barclays acquired shares in the National Bank from 1919
  • Anglo-Egyptian Bank: founded in 1864 and acquired by Barclays in 1920, this bank had representation in Egypt, British territories in the Mediterranean, Palestine and the Sudan

In 1925 Goodenough obtained an act of parliament for the re-incorporation of the Colonial Bank which thereby changed its name to Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas), a private subsidiary of Barclays Bank Limited, and soon afterwards formally absorbed both the Anglo-Egyptian Bank and the National Bank of South Africa, whose complete acquisition by Barclays was part of the whole transaction.

The original structure of the three foundation banks continued to function under powers delegated by the main board (known as the central board). The South African local board was based in Johannesburg but the local boards for the Colonial Bank and Anglo-Egyptian sections were based in London. Local boards and head offices were established subsequently in most of the territories and countries, as business expanded. From the 1960s onwards Barclays' operations were incorporated locally to comply with national legislation as territories gained independence.

In 1954 the title of the company was shortened to Barclays Bank D.C.O., thus diluting its imperial overtone. In 1971 DCO was incorporated and renamed as Barclays Bank International Ltd. (abbreviated as BBI and marketed as Barclays International), a company wholly owned by Barclays Bank Ltd. This was designed to reflect a change in strategy, as Barclays established new overseas markets in Asia, the Near East and the Americas. DC&O/DCO/BBI was always headquartered with Barclays Bank in Lombard Street, and as well as its overseas branches developed a network of offices (including a foreign exchange centre) in London, opened branches at Liverpool and Manchester, and in 1972 absorbed the network of Foreign branches of Barclays Bank Ltd. in the principal trading and industrial cities of Britain.

This structure lasted until the major reorganization of Barclays Group under the Barclays Bank Act of 1984, whereby BBI was re-registered as a public company and its business combined with that of Barclays Bank to form the present holding company - Barclays PLC - and with a new operating subsidiary (Barclays Bank PLC) taking the former company number of Barclays Bank International.


Records are arranged to reflect the departmental and administrative organization.

Access Information

Barclays Group Archives is open to access for bona fide research visitors throughout the year, by appointment. E-mail: Full contact details: Barclays Group Archives, Dallimore Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 9JA. Telephone +44 (0) 330 151 0159. Fax +44 (0) 330 151 0153.


Most management and administrative records are open to research when 30 years old; access to some material may additionally be restricted or closed for reasons of customer, commercial or third-party confidentiality.

Acquisition Information

Former historical records section of company secretary's office; subsequent accruals received from this and chairman's office, and directly from management.

Other Finding Aids

Searchable catalogue available locally on BGA's 'Archives' database; bespoke lists may be generated from specific search requests.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction or publication of records subject to the written permission of an archivist.

Custodial History

Barclays Bank D.C.O. had a tradition of looking after its historical records from at least the 1960s, managed by officers with the title of archivist. Following the merger of BBI with the UK business in 1985, the first professionally trained Group archivist was appointed in 1989 with the remit of centralising historical records and collecting additional material deemed worthy of permanent preservation. The material that was collected therefore included records from the former DC&O/DCO/BBI departments.

Related Material

see also GB 2044 E B.B.I. (FORMERLY D.C.O.) 1925-1985 for the highest level in the overseas bank, being records of the various boards, executive chair and general management


  • M Ackrill & L Hannah, Barclays: the business of banking 1690-1996 (Cambridge: University Press 2001); this volume won the Wadsworth Prize for business history
  • P W Matthews & A W Tuke, History of Barclays Bank Limited: including the many private and joint stock banks amalgamated and affiliated with it (Blades, East & Blades 1926)
  • Sir J Crossley & J Blandford, The DCO Story: a history of banking in many countries 1925-71 (Barclays 1975)
  • [R H Mottram, comp] A Banking Centenary: Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) 1836-1936 (Barclays, private circulation [1937])
  • anon., A Bank in Battledress: being the story of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) during the second world war 1939-45 (Barclays, private circulation 1948)