*Replenishing the Earth*, by James Belich

How is this for a real estate bubble?

At peak in 1888, over 80 per cent of Victorian private investment went into Melbourne buildings.  Expenditure on housing was even greater than that on rail, and many houses were built without people to live in them, or without jobs for those who did.

In the 1890s Melbourne was an impressive place.  With 500,000 people, it was eighty percent bigger than San Francisco and nine hundred percent bigger than Los Angeles.  Three hundred trains a day serviced the suburbs.  The city had three hundred buildings with elevators and Melbourne was reputed to have more large public buildings than any British city outside of London.  There were plans to build a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

That is all from James Belich's Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939.  I'll discuss this book more soon, but I'll tip my hand and say it is one of the very best non-fiction books of the year.  Imagine Jared Diamond or Greg Clark (albeit more measured, in each case) but applied to the settlement of the colonies rather than to Europe itself.  This book also has perhaps the best explanation as to why the Argentina growth miracle fell apart.


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