Like many former American school students, I studied the Great Depression from a social standpoint in depth across many American history courses The classes focused on Black Tuesday and the country plunging into a depression, yet not relaying to students what a financial depression actually was We studied President Roosevelt s programs for recovery as well as how the hard times effected average American people Yet, lacking in the courses I took in school were the financial causes for this worldwide economic depression and what a depression actually When the nonfiction Pulitzer group here on goodreads selected Lords of Finance as a group read for early next year, I had my curiosity piqued so piqued, in fact, that I made it a point of finishing this Pulitzer winner before the end of this calendar year In reading Lords of Finance as my last nonfiction book of 2017, I thoroughly enjoyed the week I spent immersing myself in the history of worldwide economics and banking.Liaquat Ahamed has been an investment banker for over twenty five years After the 1997 through 1998 Asian depression that was thankfully averted before it reached worldwide proportions, Ahamed thought hard about the worldwide depression between the years of 1929 33 What had caused the depression and could it happen again It nearly did with the bursting of the United States housing bubble in 2007 but was thwarted in time before it reached 1930 levels This lead to Ahamed taking a leave of absence from his position at respected money lending firms in order to research the history that lead to this book He used as his focal points the heads of the banks of the four major players on the world stage during the 1920s Germany, France, England, and the United States and their personal roles in the causes leading up to the depression and their plans for leading the world out of it Over the course of the book, Ahamed wove in each character s personal history in order to frame his unique role in the actions that would lead to this international economic downturn.Following the 1919 Versailles Peace Accords, Germany was ordered to pay war reparations to the allied nations of France, England, and the United States Likewise, France and England owed money to the United States for lending them money to aid the allied cause The money owed by these nations to the United States translates into billions if not trillions of dollars in today s economy As early as the early 1920s, Germany was already headed on the path toward depression The leader of the Reich bank Hjalmer Schacht believed that for Germany to avert depression was two fold to go back on the international gold standard that had been prevalent prior to the war and to have the other countries relieve her of reparations France took a tough position and refused to excuse the reparations, demanding millions of dollars in payments over the course of the next fifty years, which Germany had no means of paying In this scenario, Germany would be subservient to France for the next three generations The United States and England lead by bank heads Benjamin Strong and Montague Norman respectively saw both the dangers of relieving Germany of reparations and putting their countries back on the gold standard The Bank of England did not possess much in the way of gold, as most gold at the time was concentrated in both France and the United States Should the leaders of the western world go back on the gold standard, most worldwide money would filter back to the United States, sucking money from the European continent, and throwing her countries into a tailspin Strong and Norman communication by weekly letter, face to face meetings two to three times a year, and later by transatlantic cable and telephone While Norman favored the return to the gold standard, Strong promoted the Dawes Plan that would lessen German reparations and hopefully return the nation to prewar standards The French balked at Strong s ideas and its banking leader Emile Moreau was staunchly opposed to Strong at many of the summits of international banking heads held throughout the interwar years Strong may have been a visionary however, he was sickly, and he died prior to the outbreak of the depression His successor George Harrison did not measure up and did not enjoy as much of a personal relationship with Norman as did Strong It is difficult for Ahamed to state if Strong had not died young that the depression would have been averted, but he does point out that when Strong died, his ideas and visionary plans died with him.Both President Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler make an appearance in this book, but not until the fifth part focusing on the depression itself and steps to lead the world out of it Hjalmer Schact foresaw the Nazi party as not being able to economically manage Germany and became the country s treasury head following the Nazi overthrow of the Reichstag in 1933 Yet, Schacht distanced himself from the Nazis, stating that his position was to manage the country s money and he did not ascribe to the party s fanatical ideals He even appealed to foreign Jews to sponsor German Jews prior to the onset of the Holocaust as a means of saving their lives, but this plan was thwarted and Schact was removed from his position He did note that liquidating Germany of her Jewish bankers could potentially ruin the country s economy but to no avail As a result, Germany focused on wartime industries to boost her economy whereas her day to day living situation did not improve much until after the second war and the introduction of the Marshall Plan Although not an official member of the Nazis, Schacht was tried at Nuremburg and later acquitted in 1950 Aligned with Norman of England, his plans plunged the world into depression rather than boost it out of it.As in the history books I learned from, Roosevelt s role here is that of a motivator His fireside chats meant to boost his country s morale did little to curb the depression overtaking his country Harrison alongside members of Roosevelt s cabinet were little equipped to deal with the economic ruins facing their country, and, unfortunately, it was not until the United States entered the second war that her economy, with the influx of war time industries, took a turn for the better The bulk of the depression, however, ended in 1933, after Roosevelt s inauguration Ironically, President Hoover called for many of the same policies as did Roosevelt but the latter president would not sign off on them until he took office Immediately, Roosevelt stepped in to take the United States off of the gold standard This measure inevitably lead to a suspension of banking and fireside morale boosting chats, but it also temporarily removed the United States as being dependent on European nations to set its economic policies, setting a slow course toward economic growth and recovery.Being someone who enjoys history but finds economics challenging, I found Ahamed s research to be fascinating I knew little of the world banking heads during the 1920s who did their best to avert worldwide depression yet inevitably were the four key players who depended on the gold standard as well as war reparations that plunged the world into economic panic It would take another war and less reparations to finally lead the world back to economic prosperity Banking heads Schacht, Moreau, Norman, and Strong are all fascinating characters who usually take a back seat when discussing history to the well known heads of state Yet, it is these bankers who set worldwide economic policy that played as large a role as any in setting the interwar year policy toward gold dependency and eventually depression Ahamed ends with a brief mention of could another depression happen, citing 1997 8 and 2007 and contrasting these years with 1929 33 Hopefully, today s world leaders have studied his book, so that they know what steps to take to avert a worldwide economic crisis A fascinating read, Lords of Finance was a worthy book to end my nonfiction reading year with.5 stars Ahamed profiles four central bankers who defined monetary policy in the decade leading to the 1929 crash Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England Benjamin Strong of the New York Federal Reserve Bank Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank and mile Moreau of the Banque de France While their personalities played a role, far important was their adherence to the gold standard which straitjacketed their banks culminating in the Great Depression German reparations for WWI were problematic, but it was the restraints of the gold standard coupled with a reluctance of governments to interfere with market forces that doomed the world to depression Well written and informative, I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those with an interest in economics, monetary policy and the depression My blow by blow account below will give those interested a fair representation of what Ahmed covers, although Ahmed does it with considerably style WWI devastated the economies of Europe and transferred world economic leadership from London to New York In order to support the war England borrowed heavily from the US France borrowed from both Britain and the US Germany without other resources simply printed money The Versailles Treaty called for Germany to pay huge reparations to Britain and France Germany, essentially bankrupt, could not pay The US expected repayment of its loans from England and France which they could not pay without the reparations from Germany Britain and France tried unsuccessfully to link the amount they received from Germany to the amount paid to the US The US would have none of it Perceptive financial leaders saw that if this situation were to continue Europe would never recover and Germany could become chaotic To pay reparations Germany printed money causing runaway inflation By 1923 German pay scales and prices changed daily Anything earned had to be spent immediately before it lost its value There was tremendous resentment in Germany for having to pay reparations to its conquerors In turn France and England resented the US for its firm stance on loan repayment They felt America did not appreciate that they had sacrificed millions of lives to protect the world from the Kaiser Before the war, the major participants were all on the gold standard The amount of currency in circulation was determined by the amount of gold in the central bank based on its exchange rate During the war the Europeans desperate for cash began printing money not backed by gold This, exacerbated by the scarcity of items for purchase, led to inflation and devaluation of the currencies The US had a different problem It accumulated vast quantities of gold from Europe in payment for war supplies Abiding by the gold standard meant that currency had to be issued even though the goods available for purchase were not increasing in proportion Thus inflation occurred in America too This was tempered by the beginning of Open Market Operations, the Feds buying and selling of securities to increase or contract the money supply In this case they sold securities to pull in currency from circulation This innovation was the brainchild of Benjamin Strong who had come from the House of Morgan A devoted civil servant Strong took it upon himself to meet European financial leaders including Montagu Norman If not for Strong s new idea, inflation in the US would have gotten much worse Today the Fed relies on Open Market Operations as a primary tool to control the value of the dollar In 1923 a new German government led by Chancellor Gustav Stresemann brought Hjalmar Schacht into the Treasury Department as currency tsar This position was created to administer a new currency, the Rentenmark, based on the value of German land which the government could tax The Reichsbank was still printing the Reichsmark by the wagonload Schacht however pegged the value of his currency to that of the prewar mark and with great discipline held it there Once everyone realized the Rentenmark was stable it soon replaced the old currency In 1924 Schacht took over at the Reichsbank with Germany s inflation problem solved Now a hero at home he still had the problem of reparations Schacht went to London to meet with Norman and boldly proposed that the Bank of England lend Germany money to pay reparations which would send the money back to Britain The pound would be used as backing for German currency This part impressed Norman who was trying to restore the pound s position as a reserve currency Perhaps important Schacht impressed the Dawes Committee Dawes was assigned by President Harding to lead an international committee to resolve the reparations issue But it was another American, GE Chairman Owen Young, whose ideas led to a resolution Realizing that they could not get agreement to lower the total amount of reparations he proposed that the amount of payment for the next several years be lowered to a reasonable level ignoring the total amount due Further he proposed that American banks loan Germany the money for the first year s payment The banks would be guaranteed that repayment of their loans had priority over reparations The idea was to give the German economy time to recover so it could meet its obligations With the guarantee US banks saw this as a profitable venture and it began a cycle of American lending to Germany Dawes was rewarded by becoming Calvin Coolidge s VP.In 1925 England returned to the gold standard in what Churchill, the newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, would much later call, the biggest blunder in his life Urged on by Strong with whom Norman had recently met in New York, Norman pushed the gold standard on Churchill as a way to keep the currency from being manipulated for political reasons Churchill understood little about economics and had to rely solely on the opinions of others Keynes told Churchill to stay off the gold standard saying it would tie Britain to America where all the gold was, force unemployment, lead to high interest rates and bring down the English economy Churchill sided with Norman Keynes was right.In France in 1926, the franc began to stabilize This was due to Moreau who was brought in as Governor of the Banque de France that year More political than economic expert, Moreau, unlike Churchill, heeded the right advice, which called for a lower but controlled value for the franc This reduced the amount of the French debt Unlike Germany where inflation wiped out all debt ruining its middle class, or England where Norman maintained a high value for the pound that brought recession, the French positioned the franc in the middle Finding the sweet spot and keeping it there with purchases and sales of foreign currencies, Moreau brought France prosperity.Back in the US, Strong s innovative monetary policy helped keep inflation low and interest rates low at the same time the economy was robust due to growth in automobiles, radios and appliances By 1926 many became concerned that the stock market might be entering a bubble Given solid industrial growth, stock valuations were not yet out of line However, low interest rates did facilitate a growing trend to take out loans to buy stocks Strong did not see the stock market as the Feds concern, but he was concerned about the increasing number of loans going to Germany which were often spent on projects of little economic value American bankers chasing profits bent over backwards to provide Germany loans Germany prospered and accumulated too much debt for its creditors to let it fail In 1927 Strong invited his counterparts, Norman, Schacht and Moreau, to New York Moreau sent his economic expert, the English speaking Charles Rist Schacht concurred in the fear of possible bankruptcy from the high amount of German debt Norman was worried about the impossibility of maintaining the value of the British pound tied to the gold standard given Britain s weak economy Only Rist in France was satisfied with his situation Following the meeting Strong decided against much internal dissension to lower US interest rates thus deferring to Norman to strengthen the pound Strong ignored that lowering interest rates fueled speculation in the stock market which was now poised to head from reasonable valuations to stratospheric ones In 1928 Strong, who had a long history of tuberculosis, unexpectedly died in surgery By this time, many in government and at the Fed including Strong s successor, George Harrison, realized stock market speculation was leading to disaster Harrison raised interest rates but the horse was out of the barn Norman even came to the US to lobby Harrison for a further, albeit temporary, rate increase to slow the market down Norman saw the US stock market as a greater risk to Britain than loss of value of his beloved pound But the Fed was constrained Raising rates further would hurt American farmers who were already suffering as credit was being diverted to Wall Street The Fed also feared forcing Britain off the gold standard However interest rates were high enough with the stock market eating up much of the available credit that reasonable long term loans to Germany stopped So called hot money , short term loans at high rates, were available and Germany took them With Germany now heading into recession and facing financial disaster a meeting was held in Paris in 1929 with Schacht, Moreau, Owen Young for the Americans and Sir Josiah Stamp of the original reparations commission for the British Schacht proposed reduced reparations payments given Germany s fragile situation Moreau felt Germany had enough time to get its act together and Germany should resume full payments After much drama, Schacht agreed to allied terms for reparations payments but the underlying worldwide credit issues were not dealt with at all As the US stock market sucked up all credit, not just US farmers, but farmers worldwide faced depression taking down countries from Australia to Canada to Argentina Even worse was that gold was leaving European central banks for America to feed the beast of Wall Street With their currencies tied to the gold standard the Europeans had to raise interest rates turning their economies first to recession then depression In August of 1929 the Fed raised its discount rate to stem the market bubble with little impact, but in Britain, now in a deep recession, this exacerbated the drain of gold leaving Norman to face the prospect of abandoning the gold standard and loss of faith in the pound.In the fall of 1929, the stock market crashed quickly losing 40% of its value Harrison bought treasuries to inject money into the banking system By the summer of 1930 he had purchased 500 million and had prevented bank failures He also lowered interest rates Still the economy deteriorated, although as Ahmed notes the US had actually entered a recession before the crash Still Ahmed credits the psychological impact of the crash as a primary factor leading to the depression My own take is that other factors may have been important Kennedy in Freedom From Fear points out that income inequality left most people with little to spend and in debt to the hilt causing a recession before the crash And as Ahmed did mention farmers had been in a depression for years before the crash The stock market crash did dry up credit which particularly hurt Germany which could not meet its payments including to its many US creditors The impact of this would kick in later forcing a depressed economy deeper into depression when the US government did not support at risk banks.In 1930 the Bank of the United States, a private institution, became the first major bank to fail Soon other banks began to follow suit as people pulled deposits and banks called in loans to boost reserves in a downward spiral But tight credit caused even greater havoc overseas Germany could not even pay its government workers without fresh loans which were near impossible to get Then the 1930 election in which the Nazi s became the second most powerful party in the Reichstag scared investors and capital flew out of the country Britain s strict adherence to the gold standard already bringing it a deep recession now headed into depression as credit dried up Only France where the gold standard was mitigated by Moreau s deft currency manipulations was prospering In May 1931 Austria s largest bank, Credit Anstalt, failed This set off a loss of confidence across Germany as well as Austria leading to bank runs and capital fleeing the country Attempts by the US to stem the tide with a debt moratorium, which the French after much delay reluctantly agreed to, were too late Major German corporations and banks failed and the banks were closed Marks were no longer honored abroad and one third of able bodied Germans were unemployed Schacht who had alienated his political supporters with emotional tirades and resigned his position a year earlier now warmed up to the Nazis.In 1931 Britain finally went off the gold standard After exhausting all sources of loans, Britain realized the game was up The pound depreciated 30% but now deflation was halted and recovery could finally begin Next the US came under pressure as panicky holders of dollars suspected the US was next and began demanding their gold By 1933, the New York Fed s gold was totally depleted and it could no longer support the dollar Bank runs had ensued all over the country and as FDR was inaugurated many states had instituted bank holidays Unemployment was at twenty five percent and industrial output was in a tailspin with steel production at 12% of capacity Prices had fallen 30% The chaos of Europe in the prior year had now overtaken the US FDR acted quickly taking the US off of the gold standard and even purchasing gold to further devalue the dollar Prices rose, interest rates were low, it again became smart to borrow, the money supply increased, stock prices went up, and by the end of FDR s first term industrial production doubled and GDP increased 40%.Schacht became Hitler s Minister of Economics and Reichsbank president in 1934 While giving lip service to the gold standard, he issued alternative currencies expanding the money supply, stopping deflation and financing Hitler s industrialization and militarization Schacht objected to the maniacal focus on rearmament while consumer goods were still expensive and often not available He also was put off by the virulent anti Semitism In 1937 Goering forced him out of office He was tried at Nuremberg but acquitted since he was not in office during the war He died in 1970 at the age of 93 Norman remained as Governor of the Bank of England but with reduced influence and died in 1950 Moreau who left the Banque de France in 1930 for better paying private positions, also died in 1950 Harrison went on to the Manhattan Project authoring the famous cable to Truman at the Potsdam Conference announcing the success of the first atom bomb He died in 1958. Ahamed has written a fascinating account of how four central bankers were at the core of the economic madness that gripped the world after World War I and led to the second great war.The personalities are interesting, and the scent of the times wafts from the pages sufficient to sting the nostrils This is a book written for a popular audience No great knowledge of economics is required But that sure would help It is not only our elected officials, Wall Street brokers and government officials who are ignorant of the rules of economics I, and surely many of you are as well For me, it is a sort of blockage, like being able to read music I taught myself to play the guitar at age 15, not well, but at all, and played for some years thereafter, writing a few songs, even performing on stage a few times, but I was never able to learn to read music I tried several times, but was never able to get past a crude identification of the difference between whole, half and quarter notes In the same way, whenever I have tried to crack the code that is economics, the result was intellectual cacophony As that pertains here, while the story is fascinating, and the wealth of information proffered expands our knowledge of the times, one can only grasp a percentage of what is offered if one is economically tone deaf I just do not get how a currency can be based upon the presence of gold or any other substance for that matter Why not seashells or jelly beans As a considerable portion of the book focuses on the ramifications of the gold standard, my intellectual economic disability severely reduces the understanding I can gain here If you get the gold standard and are comfortable with discussions of macro economics, this will be mother s milk for you Great stuff For the rest of us, it is a fascinating look at a tumultuous period with color portraits of some of the central players in the world economy Ahamed appears to be blaming the four economic titans on which he focuses for the ensuing economic and military maelstrom But what should they have done, what could they have done, had the power to do, differently that would have changed the outcome To lay blame at their door seems a convenient way to personalize blame for undercurrents that are all too widespread in humanity, short sidedness, greed, mean spiritedness, and downright stupidity OK, wise guy, what should they have done Yes, people, individuals, particularly powerful, influential individuals matter But history is not just a series of he did this and she did that There are currents to history that flow, regardless of how large the fish may be that inhabit the waters The economic miseries of today are not merely a product of the madness of King Dubyah The latter reflects the former and not the other way around One reason to read this book is to see how our current fiscal crisis might resemble those of the past And indeed it does Perhaps the mis steps that were taken might be avoided today if we are to learn from history But if there is one thing that we learn from history it is that people rarely, if ever, learn from history It is an easy and interesting read Whatever the conclusions the author may draw from his story, and whatever the cranial incapacities of an individual reader, the story itself is quite intriguing. Yawn.Screw waterboarding, let s make the terrorists read this book cover to cover Its length is only dwarfed by its lack of pace.In theory, this is a 500 page book about the four central bankers whose missteps led to the Great Depression and sinking of the global economy in the 1930s However, maybe half of the book is about those central bankers who are exceedingly boring while the other half is about the minutiae of the international financial wranglings of the time and the myriad people behind them The author introduces a new person on just about every page and then describes that person s background, schooling, temperament, and even appearance but then after one paragraph that person is never heard from again This leads to a disjointed flow of the book as if the author is stepping on the gas but his car is in neutral.This book should really be a 5ish page magazine article or simply the 8 page epilogue which was the best part of the book and not just because it marked the end where you learn all you need to know which is the following 1 WWI screwed up the global economy and the reparations put on Germany made things worse since they couldn t pay.2 After WWI Germany inflated their currency, Britain deflated it, while France found a middle ground and along with the US was able to build a strong economy the US because of their late entry into the war and gold reserves, France because of keeping their currency at a discount to Britain made their goods relatively cheaper in the world economy.3 In the 1920s, the 4 central bankers profiled in the book US, France, England, Germany insisted on sticking to the gold standard which was an outdated and arbitrary system especially with the US holding most of the reserves and led to the eventual panic depression I believe this is the author s main point, other than trying to cure insomnia.4 During this time the Dawes plan and then the Young plan cut reparations and led to continued squabbling within Europe.5 The US stock market was overvalued partly caused by a Fed move and crashed thus leading to US bank failures and the US to stop loans to Germany which was still saddled with reparations and bank failures of their own This in turn spurred further global panic and bank runs in all countries.6 The second generation of central bankers went off the gold standard the US waiting until FDR to do it and soon afterwards each of the economies began to recover 7 John Maynard Keynes predicted it all and was a genius no idea if this is true, but so says this author.Thank me later for the 8 hours of your life I just saved you. Lords of Finance tracks the lives of the central bankers of the USA, Great Britain, France and Germany from 1900 to about 1950, and explains how their fiscal policy led to the Great Depression.While this important book is definitely worth reading, I can t really understand why it won a Pulitzer It s a bit of a slog before the depression but the storytelling and quality of writing picks up once 1929 arrives Recommended for anyone who likes books about finance, tycoons, or wants A really good understanding of how the gold standard works, or doesn t I returned to and finished this book on audible driving about the local streets to and from work and driving the kids hither thither what it lacks as a book and my opinion about the issue of reparations has not been changed by L.A s arguments that it is somewhat shallow qua analysis it gains as an audible in that it is very strong on narrative.The result is that the author often strives for effect, rather than truth there is a rhetorical element, common to many books, of course At any rate, I m glad I finished it, as it fills in many of the blanks.Take two I ve lost interest the book is second rate The hedge fund guys thinking they re historians because they can spot a trend Good reading for those with the time to spare I ve lowered my rating This book is good, and got off to a rousing start Well written, fascinating and it is certainly informative For anyone looking for a good book on the Depression, and real page turner not kidding , this might be it But then I got to chapter 7, and Ahamed s discussion of the Weimar inflation It is awful It seems to be contaminating by the writings of Niall Ferguson, that arch reactionary who argued, in Pity of War, that the Great War was Britain s fault not Germany s , and Ahamed blames the inflation on reparations, which is bunk.This view was debunked by both Jens Parsson a tremendously good book AND Bresciani Turroni The reparations had NOTHING to do with the inflation, and the claim that it did was due to ultra nationalist German propaganda meaning everyone to the right of Rosa Luxemburg If anybody REALLY wants to know about this issue, email me and I ll forward some notes on the topic The fact is, contrary to popular myth, Versailles was too mild Proof 1939 1945 Had the Entente pressed on for another two weeks after November 11th, the German experiment in unification would have ended then and there.Chapter 8, which deals with the US handling of the Allied war debts another sorry chapter in our history is much better, though by now it has become clear to me that the author s knowledge is second hand, and not free of Neoclassical conventions.The book, at any rate, was finished during the current market crisis, and the author is informed He is a money manger, not an academic which is, in part, a plus.I do expect to keep at it, and to finish this book deo volente Even given his opening epigraph claiming that biography was the only way to understand history, Ahamed spends surprisingly little time describing each of the bankers as people Sure, there are the vivid descriptions of their personalities and the expected personal details that helps to explain some of their behavior, but important to the story is the unique situations each of them faced in their respective home countries Moreau in France, Schacht in Germany, Norman in England, and Strong in the United States.Those three European countries ended World War I financially devastated not just in terms of direct casualties from the war, but also from the loans needed to finance it The United States, on the other hand, was on the other side of those loans removed from most of the financial and human effects of the war, after cessation of hostilities the US found itself newly elevated in the world order.But beyond the mere balance book debts and deficits was a deeper issue their common reliance on the gold standard All four had suspended matching their currency to the gold available during the war, but afterwards, desperately wanted to get back on the system for perceived stability.But then they encountered the first crisis what should they peg their currencies to now The money supply had grown in all countries as the government pumped out bills to finance their militaries, and on top of that, their gold reserves had drastically changed as well While the United States gold reserves had newly swelled due to their loans, all three European countries found their reserves drastically diminished.It s fair to say that the gold standard in all its allure and limitations forms the central driver of the book Each struggled to decide when to go back on the system, and stubborn domestic politics complicated acceptance of a devalued currency for most of the European nations Their ties to gold sharply limited their available actions during the tumultous decade that followed, and sealed their fate with the catastrophic crash It continues to be astonishing that there exists a faction of Americans national politicians, even who advocate for a return to the gold standard and ignore all history that says otherwise.And then there were the reparations Under threat of resuming hostilities, the Allies pried a stiff price out of defeated Germany Not only was land ceded to France and others, and not just there army largely stood down, but Germany found itself owing billions to France, the US, and the UK Again, internal politics played a strong role here the US argued for lower reparations in the interests of the world economy and because they wanted to disengage with Europe at the time , while the UK and France wanted to squeeze Germany dry, extracting as many kilograms of flesh as they could.All these tensions recur throughout the book, and it adds a shocking level of detail to what I previously knew about the crash Again, while Ahamed claims his project is a four fold biography of these lead bankers, his actual aims are far grand a well written, accessible look at how and why the financial system failed Unlike his presumptive thesis that hubris and personal factors led to the crash as his title and other paratext would have you believe , the book s verdict is far nuanced and damning Given the financial systems at play and the political situations at the time, it s hard to imagine how any combination of personalities could navigated the troubles.But that s not to say the book is entirely fatalist there is one lone speck of light in the darkness, and his name was John Maynard Keynes While he doesn t get as much attention as the four main characters, he acts as a hectoring marginalia to most of the decisions of the time Keynes was utterly prescient, and has rightfully seen a resurrection after the crash of 2008 But he is the Cassandra of his tale, predicting the coming crash, and unable to do much than step out of the way. With Penetrating Insights For Today, This Vital History Of The World Economic Collapse Of The Late S Offers Unforgettable Portraits Of The Four Men Whose Personal And Professional Actions As Heads Of Their Respective Central Banks Changed The Course Of The Twentieth Century It Is Commonly Believed That The Great Depression That Began In Resulted From A Confluence Of Events Beyond Any One Person S Or Government S 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, The Effects Of Which Set The Stage For World War II And Reverberated For Decades In Lords Of Finance, We Meet The Neurotic And Enigmatic Montagu Norman Of The Bank Of England, The Xenophobic And Suspicious Mile 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, Whose Fa Ade Of Energy And Drive Masked A Deeply Wounded And Overburdened Man After The First World War, These Central Bankers Attempted To Reconstruct The World Of International Finance Despite Their Differences, They Were United By A Common Fear That The Greatest Threat To Capitalism Was Inflation And By A Common Vision That The Solution Was To Turn Back The Clock And Return The World To The Gold Standard For A Brief Period In The Mid S They Appeared To Have Succeeded The World S Currencies Were Stabilized And Capital Began Flowing Freely Across The Globe But Beneath The Veneer Of Boom Town Prosperity, Cracks Started To Appear In The Financial System The Gold Standard That All Had Believed Would Provide An Umbrella Of Stability Proved To Be A Straitjacket, And The World Economy Began That Terrible Downward Spiral Known As The Great Depression As Yet Another Period Of Economic Turmoil Makes Headlines Today, The Great Depression And The Year Remain The Benchmark For True Financial Mayhem Offering A New Understanding Of The Global Nature Of Financial Crises, Lords Of Finance Is A Potent Reminder Of The Enormous Impact That The Decisions Of Central Bankers Can Have, Of Their Fallibility, And Of The Terrible Human Consequences That Can Result When They Are Wrong Lords of Finance The Bankers Who Broke the World is an intricate, in depth look at the men who were in charge of the financial structures of the four biggest economies during the lead up to The Great Depression Starting as early as 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles, Liaquat Ahamed gives us a detailed account of the triumphs and, most importantly, the mistakes these men made in the economic well being of their own countries and, consequently, of the rest of the modern world.The major characters in this story are Montague Norman of the Bank of England who was considered the most influential of the four Benjamin Strong head of the newly formed Federal Reserve Bank of New York Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank and mile Moreau from the Banque de France For the most part, these four men were in charge of the central banking The U.S used the Federal Reserve system, established in 1911 in lieu of a central bank system in each of their countries and so, controlled the ebb and flow of first gold, and then, cash reserves which affected commerce at this critical period between the wars Also included are many other financiers, economists, and politicians who played major parts in the pivotal economic events of the twenties and thirties.Ahamed identifies several major blunders he feels led to the massive economic dislocation of the Great Depression One, the decisions of the politicians at the Paris Peace Conference for the huge reparations bill, the continuing insistence on full repayment of war debts which placed a heavy burden on all of the fragile recovering economies Two, the unwise decision made by these four leading bankers to return to return to the gold standard John Maynard Keynes, the new, young economist with maverick ideas opposed a return to the gold standard and Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1925 was not totally in favor either but, eventually, the decision was made to return to it The largest error for Mr.Ahamed seems to be a failure on the part of the bankers to ever get a true understanding of the post war economy and a failure to show leadership when they did understand Lords of Finance is an excellent discussion of money and how it worked in the economies of that time It is written in an easy to follow way and presented in such an interesting manner that it occasionally has the feel of a thriller Events cascade upon themselves, sometimes in a frenzy, and the fact that, as readers, we know the particular outcomes doesn t dimish the tension and relief of discovering what happened all over again Highly recommend this Pulitzer winner to anyone who is interested in what money does and where it goes and what happens when it misbehaves. I listened to the audiobook of this, and I think I need to stop listening to non fiction books on audio because I never remember the certain facts that I love to commit to memory when I read historical non fiction books That said this book had a lot of information about the time and people involved It was interesting to learn a lot about economics.
Liaquat Ahamed has been a professional investment manager for 25 years He has worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and the New York based partnership of Fischer Francis Trees and Watts, where he served as Chief Executive He is currently an advisor to several hedge fund groups, including the Rock Creek Group and the Rohatyn Group, is a director of Aspen Insurance Co., and is on the board
- 564 pages
- Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
- Liaquat Ahamed
- 15 March 2019 Liaquat Ahamed