Baring, the name of a family of English financiers and bankers. The firm of Baring Brothers was founded by Francis Baring (1740-1810), whose father, John Baring, son of a Lutheran minister at Bremen, had come to England from Germany, and started a cloth manufactory at Larkbear, near Exeter. Francis Baring was born at Larkbear, and in due course was placed in a London commercial firm. In 1770, in conjunction with his brother John, Francis Baring established a banking-house in London, and before he died in 1810 had so developed the business that he was regarded as the first merchant in Europe. He was for many years a director of the East India Company, and chairman in 1792-1793, receiving a baronetcy for his services. From 1784-1806 he sat almost continuously in parliament as a Whig. He left five sons, of whom the eldest, Sir Thomas Baring (1772-1848), was a well-known art-patron and collector. The control of the business passed to his second son, Alexander (1774-1848), better known as Lord Ashburton, who had already been highly successful in extending the firm's operations in America, where his marriage with the daughter of William Bingham, a wealthy resident of Philadelphia and United States senator, secured him considerable influence with the American commercial community.
From 1806-1835 he represented various constituencies in parliament where he strongly opposed reform. In 1834 he became president of the Board of Trade and master of the mint in Sir Robert Peel's first administration, and the following year was raised to the peerage as Baron Ashburton. His business capacity and intimate acquaintance with American customs and institutions caused his appointment in 1842 as commissioner to the United States to negotiate the settlement of the north-eastern boundary question and other matters in dispute between the two countries, and he concluded in that year at Washington the treaty, commonly known as the Ashburton treaty, by which the frontier between Maine and Canada was fixed. After his death in 1848 the affairs of the house were managed by Thomas Baring (1799-1873), the son of Sir Thomas Baring. Thomas Baring represented Huntingdon in parliament from 1844 till his death. His elder brother, Sir Francis Thornhill Baring (1796-1866), sat for Portsmouth from 1826-1865. From 1839-1841 he was chancellor of the exchequer, and from 1849-1852 first lord of the admiralty.
In 1866 he was created Baron Northbrook, the barony being converted in 1876 into an earldom in favour of his eldest son Thomas George Baring (1826-1904). The latter, the 1st Earl of Northbrook, was occupied almost entirely with public affairs, and filled at different times many important official positions. He is best remembered as viceroy of India, which office he held from 1872-1876, but his last public position was first lord of the admiralty (1880-1885). With the death of Thomas Baring, Edward Charles Baring (1828-1897), son of Henry Baring, M.P., and grandson of Sir Francis Baring, became head of the firm of Baring Brothers, and in 1885 was raised to the peerage as Baron Revelstoke. The house of Baring then stood at the height of its prosperity. During the following years a large amount of English capital was advanced to the Argentine Republic, Barings undertaking the loans and guaranteeing the interest. Through the continued default of the Argentine government, Barings became seriously involved, their heavy obligations precipitating a general financial crisis.
Towards the end of 1890 it became known that the firm was on the eve of suspending payment, with liabilities amounting to £21,000,000. The prompt action of the Bank of England, which in conjunction with the leading joint-stock banks of the United Kingdom took over these liabilities, averted further disaster, and the firm of Baring Brothers was subsequently reorganized as a limited company with a capital of £1,000,000. Besides those already referred to, various other members of the Baring family have achieved public distinction, notably Charles Baring (1807-1879), bishop of Durham, and Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer (q.v.).