Lords of Finance

The author is Liaquat Ahamed and the subtitle is The Bankers who Broke the World but no it’s not about today it’s about the 1920s:

This book traces the efforts of these central bankers to reconstruct the system of international finance after the First World War.  It describes how, for a brief period in the mid-1920s, they appeared to succeed; the world’s currencies were stabilized, capital began flowing freely across the globe, and economic growth resumed again.  But beneath the veneer of boomtown prosperity, cracks began to appear…The final chapters of the book describe the frantic and eventually futile attempts of central bankers as they struggled to prevent the whole world economy from plunging into the downward spiral of the Great Depression.

The 1920s were an era, like today’s, when central bankers were invested with unusual power and extraordinary prestige.  Four men in particular dominate this story: at the Bank of England was the neurotic and enigmatic Montagu Norman; at the Banque of France, Emile Moreau, xenophobic and suspicious; at the Reichsbank, the rigid and arrogant but also brilliant and cunning Hjalmar Schacht; and finally, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Benjamin Strong…

I am enjoying this book very much, though it terrifies me as well.  I hadn’t known that Norman, later in his life, thought he could walk through walls.  Nor did I know that in the 1920s one-third of the population of the state of Colorado lived there as a (supposed) respite from tuberculosis.  You can buy it here.


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