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The Great Crash 1929 (Penguin Business) [Paperback]

John Kenneth Galbraith
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Oct 1992 Penguin Business
Examines the "gold-rush fantasy" in American psychology and describes its dire consequences. The Florida land boom, the operations of Insull, Kreuger and Hatry, and the Shandoah Corporation all come together in Galbraith's study of concerted human greed and folly.


Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 Oct 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140136096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136098
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Rampant speculation. Record trading volumes. Assets bought not because of their value but because the buyer believes he can sell them for more in a day or two, or an hour or two. Welcome to the late 1920s in the US. There are obvious and absolute parallels to the great bull market of the late 1990s, writes Galbraith in a new introduction dated 1997. Of course, Galbraith notes, every financial bubble since 1929 has been compared to the Great Crash, which is why this book has never been out of print since it became a bestseller in 1955.

Galbraith writes with great wit and erudition about the perilous actions of investors and the curious inaction of the government. He notes that the problem wasn't a scarcity of securities to buy and sell: "The ingenuity and zeal with which companies were devised in which securities might be sold was as remarkable as anything." Those words become strikingly relevant in light of revenue-negative start-up companies coming into the market each week in the 1990s, along with fragmented pieces of established companies, like real estate and bottling plants. Of course, the 1920s were different from the 1990s. There was no safety net below citizens, no unemployment insurance or Social Security. And today we don't have the creepy investment trusts--in which shares of companies that held some stocks and bonds were sold for several times the assets' market value. But, boy, are the similarities spooky, particularly the prevailing trend at the time toward corporate mergers and industry consolidations--not to mention all the partially informed people who imagined themselves to be financial geniuses because the shares of stock they bought kept going up. --Lou Schuler, Amazon.com

About the Author

John Kenneth Galbraith wrote more than 30 books, spanning four decades. He was awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Oxford, the University of Paris and Moscow University. He was the Paul M Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University. He died in 2006.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Solid write up of the 1929 crash 10 Dec 2008
By A. I. Mackenzie VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is a surprisingly good reference on the 1929 crash. The book is very readable considering the subject matter. For me the run up to the crash got a bit too much detail whereas the details of aftermath and solutions got less attention than I would have liked. He also focuses on trivia about suicide rates which is quite entertaining but doesn't seem to the point (which for me is to understand and avoid these kind of wild crashes).

We seem to have duplicated the conditions of this crash almost exactly in 2008 and indulged in the same property and derivative based speculation. It's also interesting that JK Galbraith goes against current (neo-liberal) orthodoxy e.g. the rich having too much money is destabilising rather than it being a benefit as 'trickle down' theory suggests.

So a good solid history, perhaps a little light on solutions. But, by ignoring history we seem to have repeated it.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
By Philip Mayo VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the most surprising and delightful things that I found about the book, particularly in view of the potentially heavy subject matter, was how wonderfully readable Professor Galbraith is. There are not that many world renowned experts in any field who can write as well as they can understand their subject. It's a bit like finding that a world class footballer can also play first violin. This book reads like the work of a top drawer professional writer who has immersed him/herself in the subject for a period and, with ongoing expert guidance and hands-on editing, has brought the subject home in fine style. It reads to me a bit like Tom Wolfe (of the Right Stuff etc), wonderfully literate, sardonic prose. It really is quite unexpected. Marvellous. You will have more than one chuckle out loud which may raise one of the live-in's eyebrows. Chuckling at economics now? Hmmm.

Anyway, the stock market fell, measured by the Times Industrial Average, from 542 down to 224, from October through Nov 1929, and then more gradually to only 58, basically a tenth of its peak 1929 value, by July 1932. Drastic times indeed. This residual value that the market held, 58, in 1932, was roughly the same amount by which the market fell, in only one day, 28/10/1929, Black Thursday. The Professor's contention seems to be that the Depression and the Crash, while not totally unrelated, were less connected than popular opinion held then, or holds now. The contention is that prior to the crash, that the economy was not fundamentally sound. Although there were no glaring warning signs in the economic indicators reported in the first half of 1929, there were some red lights flickering. The Professor goes on to detail and explain those. Of course I am still no expert on what happened in 1929 and why.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Actually Happened in 1929? 5 July 2004
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Having recently lived through the crash of the dot-com stocks, I thought it was a particularly appropriate moment to reread John Kenneth Galbraith's famous history of the stock market crash of 1929 in the United States. Professor Galbraith's final words prove to be prophetic as he suggests that as soon as the lessons of 1929 are forgotten, the speculative excesses that led to that debacle will recur. I am sure that when the dot-bomb experience is forgotten, it will be repeated with some new class of speculation in some future generation.
With the recent experience of seeing a market mania, I came away more impressed with this book than before. Professor Galbraith does a fine job of capturing the psychology that builds into and sustains a mania. He also writes like a novelist rather than like an economist. That talent makes the message easy to grasp and appreciate.
I was also impressed by how our popular perceptions of 1929 are so often wrong. For example, most people believe that many "broken" speculators committed suicide. Although some did, there was no significant rise in the suicide rate compared to a general trend in that direction.
Economists often like to fault the Federal Reserve for the crash. That blame seems somewhat misplaced when you learn that there was very little government debt that the Fed could repurchase to create liquidity. Had the Fed acted differently, the crash might have come a little sooner and not been quite so severe . . . but the fundamentals would probably not have changed too much.
Another misperception is that everyone was speculating. By even the most generous measures, the speculators probably never numbered over a million people.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read for any investor 21 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
following the "sudden vanishing" of approximately USD 5 trillion dollars of market capitalization in the NASDAQ since march 2001, this book comes as a somewhat "refreshing" read - especially considering that it was published back in 1954! i have never been one to put too much weight on comments such as "history always repeats itself", but this book was rather scary in that it could have easily been written in 2001. for those of you have been following the "irrationally exhuberant" technology equity markets of the last 3 years, this book shows that the will to participate in "easy money opportunities" lives in all of us.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of economic literature
A very well written, well structured analytical text, certainly great for referencing and for a broader understanding of the 1920s-30s economic history, but also a book with a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Matteo Rodolfo
5.0 out of 5 stars A good breakdown of a financial breakdown
I picked this up for research and found it an excellent summary of the events before during and after the Wall Street Crash. Read more
Published 10 months ago by tirial
5.0 out of 5 stars A Re-read after 25years!
Well, decided to buy and read this book again after 25 years. I remember enjoying reading the first time - it being very well written and pretty short and concise. Read more
Published 10 months ago by johng
3.0 out of 5 stars poor print quality
The book is a good read but this edition has a very poor print quality.
It looks like it was typeset by photocopying an original manuscript. Read more
Published 12 months ago by jme
5.0 out of 5 stars exaustive story of the 1929 crisis
Precise, exaustive and easy to understand tractation about the Big crash of '29. A must read. It's a campus tractation, good for students or for the interested people. Read more
Published 12 months ago by fabio gregorini
5.0 out of 5 stars History repeating itself
Just read what JKG says about Goldman Sachs then; and weep. It's a pity our esteemed leaders haven't read and understood this book.
Published 13 months ago by K. R. Grayling
3.0 out of 5 stars Average
Very much Galbraith in its verbage and sometimes involved verbage. Certainly solid explanation of this critical time but strayed into areas above me on some occasions. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Page
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great
I love economics and finance but found this book uninteresting to read, which is probably sacriliege to say. Boring to read doesnt hold attention at all
Published 14 months ago by Sarah Gillen
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book if you want to know the causes and effects of the Great...
An easy to read history of the Great Crash. Professor Galbraith writes with dry wit and in a style that makes it a page turner. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jane Costello
3.0 out of 5 stars A dry and rather narrowly focused account
The Great Crash 1929 is considered by many to the classic account of the 1929 stock market crash that sent the US and much of the world into deep economic depression. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Rob Kitchin
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