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on 29 June 1998
Only in the epics about Robert Moses (and the pivotal role he played in the development of New York) and Harrison Gray Otis (and the pivotal role that the Publisher of the L.A. Times played in the development of Southern California) has a book so captivated me. Chernow gets underneath the big events of the 19th and 20th century, digging deeply, and always following the money. Well worth its price. A whole new perspective about finance, banking, and the role they play in global economic development.
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on 2 January 2012
Anyone who has read an account of the 2008 banking crisis will have come across references to J Pierpont Morgan, and the venerable bank that bears his name. Ron Chernow dedicated a huge amount of time to researching this book and had un-paralleled access to records and papers, much of which was donated by the early partners to their alma mater. The book is an objective, often unflattering, history of the development of three great banks, and of modern banking itself. It is easy to think that bankers making huge amounts of money, and being universally despised, is a modern phenomenon, but that is not the case. Modern bankers are quite modest compared with their rich predecessors, who were reviled by the masses of people who blamed them for their plight.

Whether bankers created history, or merely responded to its changes, will be the subject of debate for a long time. As well as chronicling the development of modern banking, this book is a social history, where recurring bank crises affect many many people and create endless questions of ethics.

The House of Morgan was a fantastic creation that played a big role in shaping the lives we lead today, and whether or not you are interested in banking or just interested in how we got here living the lives we lead, this book will make terrific reading. But be warned at 725 pages reading it requires a significant commitment but it is well worth it.
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on 22 July 1999
Heavy book (800+ pages) but worthwhile reading if one is interested in the history of international finance & banking. The chapters on the 1929 Crash and the Great Depression give some perspectives on the "New Era" and the "New Economy": the parallels with the ongoing Bull stock market are an excellent "food for thoughts" for the ones who consider that "it's different this time". As a professor in Finance, I'll definitely put this book on my "recommended reading" list for my students.
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on 16 June 1998
"The House of Morgan" can serve as a proxy for the history of the American financial system before the establishment of the Federal Reserve. Morgan's influence on the world financial system was demonstrated by the raising of loans for the English, French and German governments. Morgan was also well known as the sponsor of many railroad bonds at the turn of the last century. As such the bank was instrumental in building the infrastructure which allowed the industrial revolution to bloom with enormous strenth here in America. It is said that at the turn of the century JP Morgan had underwritten half of the securities traded on the NYSE. Morgan's great strength was a function of the American/British arms of the bank and their ability to transfer capital and wealth between between the two nations. Each nation has had economic dominance in different periods of history. Yet many view JP Morgan as a villian or a greedy banker with dollar signs in his eyes. Ron Chernow's five star treatise on Morgan reveals him to be a deeply religious man who was intent on bringing orderly rationalization to the capital markets and restraining competition which he believed to be counter-productive in capitalist economy. He and his bank were deeply private and this work does a wonderful job of gently pulling back the curtain at 23 Wall Street. For those interested in the capital markets a must read!
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on 4 October 2015
Ummm... I'm not 100% sure about this book. It's the fourth Chernow book I've read (after Titan, which is about the Rockefellers, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington), and this was probably the worst of the four books of his I've read.

This book, as the title suggests, looks at the House of Morgan banking group, and the company's daughter companies (Morgan Guaranty, Morgan Stanley, and Morgan Grenfell) as they evolve through the three stages of banking (going from where the bankers have all the power, to where even the most staid bankers are having to hustle for business).

It wasn't a bad read. It explains what happened to the bank, and the American banking system from before the start of the bank, to 1987 (when the book was written). And therein lies the problem. Given what happened to the banking system since 2007, it might be worthwhile updating the book to address the similarities between what happened in 1987, and 2007, but that didn't happen.

My other grumble is that Chernow felt proud that he wrote the book quickly. While you probably wouldn't have noticed, had he not mentioned it, when this is tied in to the fact that the book could have been updated to address recent events, and I'm left wondering what could have happened had it been updated.
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on 27 September 1998
Not as interesting as it should have been.
Chernow could have made it more vivid by living more in the trees than amid the forest, region, or biosphere. I would've found it more engaging if there had been a more personal exposition of the players (i.e., more time spent on detailed exposition of individual events than on general descriptions and delineation of trends).
I'm glad, though, that I read it. It was a very informative history.
Maybe you will be, too.
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on 7 February 1998
If a book, once read, does not remain on the shelf, but is referred back to on a frequent basis for additional information, it is a book that is well worth its purchase price. One such book is the Ron Chernow's "House of Morgan" (1990).
As this reviewer reads other books on the economic history of the United States and relations between Britain and the United States in the 1890's, this book on the life and times of banker J.P. Morgan,his son and the banking firm they developed,is a book often used as a reference guide.
The Morgan banking firm has had a tremendous impact on the history of the United States and Europe in the last part of the nineteenth century and the entire twentieth century. Reading this book, conveys that impact in a style that won the book the 1990 National Book Award
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on 13 May 2015
A detailed book on Morgan dynasty. Whether like it or not, banking is a necessary industry in any age and any country. Particularly, this book deals with the decisive era in US history when the nature of banking industry was changed through the rise of powerful dynasties including Morgan.
If you aspire to be a finance professional, this is a book that you need to read to know and understand US banking history. Monumental work of author.
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on 14 February 1997
Ron Chernow provides an excellent overview of the House of Morgan from the days of Junius to the present. Perhaps the most interesting part describes the efforts of J.P Morgan to salvage American companies from the ravages of the Robber Barons. The book provides a more balanced view of what the Morgan System accomplished. This book gave me a broad overview of turn of the century American business.
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on 14 November 2013
This is a monumental, epic account of the Morgan bank spanning a century and a half. With branches in New York, London, Paris and Philadelphia, the Morgan Group was one of the first truly global financial institutions and, in the early 1900s, the most powerful in the world.

Apart from banking and finance, the Morgan empire included extensive interests in key resources and commodities from steel to railways. This inevitably led to close links to the ruling political elites, which added to the Morgans' immense power and prestige.

The detailed portraits of Morgan chiefs like John Pierpont Sr. - protuberant nose and all - highlight the ruthless personal ambition, the incessant hunger for power and hatred of competition as the driving forces behind the extraordinary wealth, power and influence amassed by the group and explains the extensive Morgan involvement in international business and finance.

As Ron Chernow shows, it was these international commitments that forced the Morgans to take an active interest in European affairs, causing them to side with London and Paris against Berlin and turning them into champions of the Allied cause in the conflict that ensued.

The Morgans' involvement in financing the Allied war effort was absolutely crucial in saving the Allied side from impending financial disaster and the Allies, Britain above all, openly expressed their indebtedness at the time, as is clear from statements by Lloyd George, Lord Moulton, Lord Northcliffe and others.

Unsurprisingly, the Morgans re-emerge in 1940 among the leaders of the Committee to defend America by Aiding the Allies, which as Chernow points out, perfectly reflected the established position of Morgan interests.

However, while references to America's financial assistance to the Allies abound in US newspapers of the time as well as in later publications, the information found in British papers (e.g., The Times) is disappointingly meagre and disappears almost completely in later literature. Max Hastings' "Catastrophe" is a prime example, though by no means an exception.

This lends some credence to the rising number of people voicing the view that the involvement of US financial interests in international conflicts like the First World War has been deliberately hushed up and exposes the collective amnesia afflicting a British psyche moulded by the Daily Mail. So, it was good to see that, at least on the US side, some important things are still remembered.

On the minus side, the author could have been more generous with data on Morgan-associated outfits like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Pilgrims Society that have been instrumental in shaping Anglo-American foreign policy.

Even so, on the whole, I tend to agree with the view that "The House of Morgan" is an essential book for understanding the money and power behind the major historical events of the last 150 years.

J P Morgan itself lives on as part of the Rockefellers' JP Morgan Chase. Tony Blair's role as chairman of its international advisory council shows that, for better or for worse, the saga of influence and power goes on.
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