Scenes of Lehman Brothers’ employees hurriedly clearing out belongings from their London offices in September 2008, as the bank filed for the largest bankruptcy in US history, became part of the iconic imagery of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Lehman’s collapse was the pivotal moment in the unfolding of the crisis, causing inter-bank lending markets to seize up and demonstrating the magnitude of the peril faced by the global financial system.
Beyond the immediacy of the crisis, however, the image had a wider significance: it represented the catastrophic culmination of a long process – extending over decades – of Anglo-American financial market integration. The collapse of an American bank was felt in London just as it was in New York. This was a crisis in the heartland: a financial disaster incubated in liberalised and globally oriented Anglo-American financial markets that served to transmit contagion around the world.