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Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression, and the Bankers who Broke the World Paperback – 7 Jan 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (7 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009949308X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099493082
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"NIALL FERGUSON: 'Highly readable... [Ahamed] cannot have foreseen how timely his book would be." (FT)

"ROBERT PESTON: 'Compelling and convincing...humanises the world's descent into economic chaos.'" (Sunday Times)

"'Fascinating... Anyone who wants to understand the origins of the economic world we live in would do well to read this book...brisk, original, incisive and entertaining." (Michael Beschloss)

"One of those rare books - authoritative, readable and relevant - that puts the "story" back into history... a spellbinding, richly human [and] cinematic narrative." (Strobe Talbott)

"Absorbing [and] provocative, not least because it is still relevant." (The Economist)

Review

`Fascinating ... a brisk, original, incisive and entertaining account of a crucial time in the world's economic history that continues to affect us all today. Anyone who wants to understand the origins of the economic world we live in would do well to read this book' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DOPPLEGANGER TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some seem to think that the recent devastating, greed-induced, brainless financial cock-up at an astronomical cost to the taxpayer, is unlikely to reoccur. They are so, so wrong. During the past century alone, there have been a number of financial disgraces that have impacted on society at large, the hitherto most serious being The Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930's. We didn't learn in the medium or long-term from any of these events, and will not do so in the future, as our actions are governed always an equal mixture of ambition, greed, and asininity. There will be another global financial melt down in the future, guaranteed for certain, so lets hope the tax-payers have very deep pockets and short memories because the perpetrators of massive monetary bankruptcies are rarely penalised with loss of liberty or bank balances.

So to "Lords Of Finance", it is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 resulted from a sequence of events beyond any one person's or governments control. In fact, as Liaquat Ahamed reveals, it was the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of the economic meltdown, that set the scene for the terrible downward spiral leading to unruly markets and the manifestations of the very worse of human behaviour. All seems a bit familiar doesn't it?

In "Lords Of Finance", we meet the neurotic and enigmatic Montague Norman of the Bank of England, the xenophobic and suspicious Emile Moreau of the Banque de France, the arrogant yet brilliant Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank, and Benjamin Strong of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Janus on 24 April 2009
Format: MP3 CD
This book is an absolute model of economic history writing. It makes its central characters come disarmingly alive, it presents a well structured narrative woven around a cogent core theme, it makes its arguments eloquently and persuasively without getting bogged down in mundane detail, and above all, it will genuinely illuminate the reader not only on the period it is describing but on a vast number of aspects of international economics and finance.

I read this book for a university course covering the Gold Standard era and found it hugely helpful in this regard, but would have absolutely no hesitations in recommending it as a leasure read to anybody with even the remotest interest in the Great Depression, the economic consequences of World War 1, or the lives of statesmen and policy makers during the 1920s and early 30s. These topics are often served bland, but Ahamed's wonderful prose keeps the book consistently engaging and makes it a true literary pleasure.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Samantha Buker on 28 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book for its stylish, nearly gossipy presentation about the men behind the scenes: central bankers. While the author is not likely to agree, I think the details of his book easily expose the perils of central banking.

The big fallacy: an economy is a single-organism-like entity that can be stimulated and saved by smart men who know for example that "2% inflation per year" is the "right" thing for growth. Blow-by-blow you see the consequences of monetary interventions on a big scale and the panic they bring. Naturally you see how world wars and economic retribution (reparations) don't help matters one bit.

One wonders who will write about Bernanke and Greenspan thus?

A great follow-up to "Lords of Finace" would beWhen Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Hyper-Inflation by Adam Fergusson -- this gives you the most boots-on-the-ground average citizen view of the decisions the "Lords" made for them about their money.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By George Norris on 16 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Liaquat Ahamed (a NY money manager) won the FT Business Book of the Year Award 2009 with this - his first book - and deservedly so.

There are lots of parallels with the recent financial crisis (although Ahamed actually wrote the book before the crisis broke). Points of interest are:

Debt

World War 1 saddled the Europeans with Debt. The Germans owed money to the French and Brits ("reparations") while the Brits and French owned money to the Americans (who kindly lent us money so we could buy weapons from them). These debts soured international relations for 20 years: the French and Brits wouldn't reduce the reparations due from Germany, unless the Americans agreed to reduce their demands on them.
There were 3 different approaches to dealing with the hang-over of debt.
1. Inflation: Germany did this in the 1920s, it led to hyperinflation, but reduced the value of their currency, making the reparations easier to pay (in theory only, because the Allies soon wised up and demanded something of value - e.g. the French invaded the Ruhr district of Germany to get coal).
2. Devaluation: The French devalued their currency against gold: thus reducing the value of their debt obligations. In the 1920s, this was seen as a dishonourable thing to do: tantamount to defaulting on your debt.
3. Deflation: The Brits simply did their best to pay off their debts, viewing the French and German responses as dishonourable.

Currency Wars

The gold-standard took a breather in WW1, but countries rejoined as soon as they could afterwards. The French rejoined at a much lower rate, which allowed them to accumulate huge gold reserves (capital account surplus) and run current account surpluses to try to export their way to growth.
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