Emily's Reviews > Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed
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Nov 14, 09

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bookshelves: 2009
Read in November, 2009

In the early 1930s, a reporter asked John Maynard Keynes whether anything like the Great Depression had ever happened before. His reply: "Yes, it was called the Dark Ages, and it lasted four hundred years." This book is about the four central bankers (of the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany) who presided over the economic collapse between the World Wars. Imagine something much worse than the banking crisis of 2007 taking place after a brutal war in which millions of men were killed and in countries where governments might change every few months, while Bolsheviks and Nationalists threatened government stability. That, in a nutshell, is what this book describes.

The author provides biographical information on all four men, but this isn't really a biography; the men's lives are used to enliven the book and personify national attitudes. The author shows how economic problems grew in the late teens and early twenties as an extended series of currency crises. Despite the U.S. holding a disproportionate amount of the world's gold reserves in the wake of the war, England and France were determined to go back on the gold standard, regardless of the short term pain. Meanwhile, Germany suffered catastrophic inflation. Then, in the late twenties and early thirties, the crisis spread into banking, becoming what we know as the Great Depression.

There are slow parts, but I thought the author did a good job of untangling complicated economic situations where it can be difficult to distinguish cause and effect. He also used economics to link World War I and World War II--events that are so often treated separately--in a worthwhile way.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Frank I'm not sure many serious historians would claim that WWI and WWII were separate.


Emily I'm not sure you understood my sentence. They are often TREATED separately, that is to say, not written about in single books. In fact, in my experience, the more serious the historian, the smaller the topic they bite off. Hence, I find it occasionally worthwhile to read a less scholarly book that ties big topic areas together, as this one does.


Frank I completely misread.


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