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From the bestselling and award-winning author of ‘An English Affair’, a dazzlingly original thematic biography which throws fresh light on the greatest economist of the twentieth century.
John Maynard Keynes saved Britain from financial crisis twice over the course of two World Wars, and instructed Western industrialised states on how to protect themselves from revolutionary unrest, economic instability, high unemployment and social dissolution. In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, economists worldwide have once again turned to his ideas to confront their problems.
In this entertaining and edifying new biography, Richard Davenport-Hines introduces the man behind the economics; a connoisseur, intellectual, economist, administrator and statesman who was equally at ease socialising with the Bloomsbury Group as he was when influencing the policies of Presidents.
By exploring the desires and experiences that made Keynes think as he did, or compelled him to innovate, Davenport-Hines reveals the aesthetic basis of Keynesian economics, and explores why this Great Briton’s ideas continue to instruct and encourage us seventy years after his death.
‘Succinct, lively and well-written biography … Done with great panache, in a volume that will introduce Keynes and his strange world to a new generation of readers’ Evening Standard
‘An amusing, elegant and provocative writer … great fun. By focusing on Keynes as a private man and public figure rather than an academic economist, it is possible to see him as the last and greatest flowering of Edwardian Liberalism’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
‘Daringly but sensibly, this renowned biographer, Davenport-Hines, has studied Keynes from seven points of view – not one of them as an economist … a rewarding and fascinating book’ Daily Mail
‘A treat… We read endlessly about Keynes the economist. But he was so much more and this unputdownable book explores the man’ Independent
‘Treating Keynes’s lives as interesting and valuable for their own sake gives them extra vividness … With a keen eye for telling detail and social connections, Davenport-Hines brilliantly conveys what one might call the peripheral atmospherics of Keynes’s existence … Done with grace and insight’ Robert Skidelsky, Observer
‘This thoughtful biography does justice both to Keynes’s idiosyncrasies and to his influence … with wit and grace, as well as a good deal of scholarly digging … incisive and thoughtful … The book conveys its own vision of this wholly extraordinary and undeniably idiosyncratic figure with persuasive artistry and conviction’ Financial Times
‘[A] first-class book, which I cannot praise highly enough … This admirable book does Keynes justice’ Literary Review
‘Worthy of its brilliant subject, ‘Universal Man’ manages to expound Keynes’s ideas while shining with his own optimistic spirit. Lively, funny, original, and beautifully written’ A. N. Wilson
‘Davenport-Hines heroically styles [Keynes] in this affectionate and occasionally delicious general biography …refreshingly unsanctimonious’ TLS
‘A rich story, brilliantly told’, Paul Johnson, The Spectator, Books of the Year
With Keynes once again in ascendance thanks to the Great Recession, this gracefully written biography gives lay readers a chance to reacquaint themselves with the man whose theories were behind TARP and quantitative easing. Davenport-Hines (An English Affair) divides the book into seven personality aspects or "snapshots," capturing Keynes's complexity but making it more difficult to appreciate him in the whole. Keynes's economic theories receive particularly short shrift. On the other hand, fascinating personal details emerge, such as Keynes's abhorrence of bitten fingernails, which for him sullied even such an eminence as the poet W.H. Auden: "All other impressions so favourable, but those horrid fingers cannot lie." Readers familiar with Keynes's marriage to a Russian ballerina may be surprised to learn that he originally, and predominantly, favored men, cataloguing his casual pickups on long lists. Indirectly, Davenport-Hines's focus on Keynes as a human being offers some insight into Keynes as an economist, suggesting that his universality, as well as personal warmth and humanism, informed his belief that both government and the free market had economic roles to play, and that the love of money was, in itself, "a somewhat disgusting morbidity." This is a delightful, detailed portrait, rich in interesting anecdote and encompassing the entire roster of Keynes's accomplishments.