The Paris School of Economics is hosting a really nice website on top incomes across 22 economies. The top incomes data stretches from the early twentieth century to the present day. For example, the share of total annual income going to the top 1% of earners in the UK has risen from 6% in the 1970s to close to 14% today. In other words, the income share of top earners in the UK is back to pre-WWII levels. A similar pattern exists for Ireland. You can access the database here.
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of