Britain’s new £50 note

Quelle fi­gure his­to­rique pour illus­trer le nou­veau billet de 50 £ ?

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire -

La Banque d’An­gle­terre vient d’an­non­cer la mise en cir­cu­la­tion pro­chaine d’un nou­veau billet de 50 livres ster­ling... et a in­ci­té les ci­toyens bri­tan­niques à don­ner leur avis sur la fi­gure his­to­rique qui or­ne­ra ce billet. Ces der­niers sont ain­si in­vi­tés à pro­po­ser des noms de scien­ti­fiques bri­tan­niques. La fi­gure choi­sie se­ra ré­vé­lée en 2019. Cette an­nonce a ins­pi­ré un jour­na­liste de The Economist...

There are few things more contro­ver­sial—and less conse­quen­tial—than the design of a na­tio­nal cur­ren­cy. Just ask Mark Car­ney, the go­ver­nor of the Bank of En­gland. In 2013 he in­he­ri­ted a dis­pute over the re­pla­ce­ment with Wins­ton Chur­chill of Eli­za­beth Fry, a so­cial re­for­mer, on the £5 note.

2. Pre­vious­ly, as go­ver­nor of the Bank of Ca­na­da, he had to apo­lo­gise af­ter an Asian fe­male scien­tist due to ap­pear on the C$100 bill was bum­ped by a white wo­man. In the same year a new C$20 note was cal­led “por­no­gra­phic” for its de­pic­tion of scan­ti­ly clad sta­tues. So it must be with a sense of wea­ri­ness that Mr Car­ney confronts the pu­blic de­bate on who should ap­pear on the bank’s new £50 note.


3. It may hard­ly seem to mat­ter. Cash ac­counts for just a third of re­tail pur­chases by vo­lume in Britain. Within a de­cade it will be used for just 16%, ac­cor­ding to UK Fi­nance, a trade bo­dy. The £50 note is used least of all: there are more than twice as ma­ny ten­ners in cir­cu­la­tion and six times as ma­ny twen­ties. Few cash ma­chines dis­pense them. Shop­kee­pers dis­trust them. With the ex­cep­tion of crooks, the on­ly group that uses £50 notes in any num­ber is tou­rists, so the sen­sible thing may be to choose an am­bas­sa­dor ea­si­ly re­co­gni­sable by vi­si­tors. William Sha­kes­peare, per­haps— or, since the Bard used to fea­ture on the £20 note, maybe Pep­pa Pig.


4. Some coun­tries avoid contro­ver­sy by set­tling on a single uni­fying fi­gure. In­dia fea­tures on­ly Ma­hat­ma Gand­hi on eve­ry de­no­mi­na­tion, South Afri­ca on­ly Nel­son Man­de­la, and Chi­na on­ly Mao Ze­dong. Ano­ther so­lu­tion is to avoid hu­mans al­to­ge­ther. The Bank of Ire­land, which is­sues ster­ling in Nor­thern Ire­land, a pro­vince with deep fis­sures, puts a whis­key dis­til­le­ry on the back of eve­ry note ex­cept the £100, which has a uni­ver­si­ty. Eu­ro notes fea­ture made-up bridges.

5. But since Bri­tish pas­sions have been arou­sed by a note that few ever use, why not sim­ply pro­duce more? An £84 note could fea­ture George Or­well. A series of £60s could de­pict the Beatles. A note worth £9¾ might show Har­ry, Her­mione and Ron. Pos­tal au­tho­ri­ties throu­ghout the world pro­duce no­vel­ty stamps. Central banks may as well fol­low suit.

Some coun­tries avoid contro­ver­sy by set­tling on a single uni­fying fi­gure.


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