LONDON—British travel agency Thomas Cook was born to cater to moneyed Victorians, taking them on grand tours around Europe and the U.S. It evolved over nearly two centuries into a charter service for European budget holidaymakers.

Early Monday, the 178-year-old company went bust, stranding as many as 500,000 of these modern-day globe-trotters and triggering what the U.K. government said was its biggest-ever peacetime repatriation.

The marooning of an estimated 150,000 U.K.-based travelers alone by the bankruptcy set off round-the-clock news coverage here. It also provided newly minted Prime Minister Boris Johnson —already fighting both the European Union and his country’s Parliament over Brexit—a fresh crisis.

Excerpt from WSJ

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