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Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression, and the Bankers who Broke the World [Paperback]

Liaquat Ahamed
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jan 2010


The current financial crisis has only one parallel: the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s, which crippled the future of an entire generation and set the stage for the horrors of the Second World War. Yet the economic meltdown could have been avoided, had it not been for the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers.

In Lords of Finance, we meet these men, the four bankers who truly broke the world: the enigmatic Norman Montagu of the bank of England, Benjamin Strong of the NY Federal Reserve, the arrogant yet brilliant Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbanlk and the xenophobic Emile Moreau of the Banque de France. Their names were lost to history, their lives and actions forgotten, until now. Liaquat Ahamed tells their story in vivid and gripping detail, in a timely and arresting reminder that individuals - their ambitions, limitations and human nature - lie at the very heart of global catastrophe.

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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: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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)


`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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE FINANCIAL MERRY-GO-ROUND SCREW-UP 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of Depression-era economics 20 April 2009
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Who knew that a study of central bankers could be a page-turner? Investment manager Liaquat Ahamed spins a fast-moving yarn about central bankers' disastrous monetary policy decisions in the 1920s and early 1930s. The story itself yields little suspense - you already know how it ends, but Ahamed uses thorough research and gripping detail to paint a complete picture of how the world economy collapsed. The Great Depression preceded today's credit default swaps, collateralized mortgage obligations and arcane derivatives, so the book's lessons for the modern crisis are mostly as referential cautions. getAbstract recommends this absorbing book to readers who want a deeper understanding of the gold standard, and the events that led to - and out of - the biggest economic crisis of the 20th century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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:


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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 11 days ago by Burridge
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not deserving of a Nobel prize for history, but then...
A good book. Not excellent but good. Rather than going on about the positive aspects I will list my main quarrels. Read more
Published 21 days ago by D. Radic
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good overview of the period
Highly entertaining, well-written. A very good insight into the economics and politics of the period, especially the influence of the central banking fraternity.
Published 7 months ago by Lutatius
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A good read and informative. I would recommend it as background reading to anyone studying modern history, economics or finance. Read more
Published 8 months ago by eastcharle@aol.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I loved this book, very informative. Plugged a lot of gaps I had about the economic impact of the Second World War and how America financially achieved its meteoric rise to a... Read more
Published 9 months ago by MR ANDREW STEVENSON
4.0 out of 5 stars Great compromise between detail and narrative
I purchased this book to get a better idea of the economic causes of the great depression. I can safely say I have achieved that with this book and gained a greater understanding... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jamie Lenney
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book puts the Great Depression causes and effects into plain English and draws very useful comparisons to what has happened in 2008_2013.
Published 16 months ago by D K
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Blown away!
What an amazing writer and brilliant researcher! I felt like I was in the center of it all! It really does resonate with todays (or more accurately 2008s) circumstances. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Youi
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly readable and entertaining book. Superb!
An entertaining story of arguably the most influential figures in international politics in the years between the first and second world wars - the central bankers of Britan, the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by EOGisla
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning.
Eat your hearts out Irving Fisher, John Kenneth Galbraith, Charles Kindelberger, Milton Friedman, Richard Koo and Ben Bernanke. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Athan
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