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THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE.
The current financial crisis has only one parallel: the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s, which crippled the future of an entire generation and set the stage for the horrors of the Second World War. Yet the economic meltdown could have been avoided, had it not been for the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers.
In Lords of Finance, we meet these men, the four bankers who truly broke the world: the enigmatic Norman Montagu of the bank of England, Benjamin Strong of the NY Federal Reserve, the arrogant yet brilliant Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbanlk and the xenophobic Emile Moreau of the Banque de France. Their names were lost to history, their lives and actions forgotten, until now. Liaquat Ahamed tells their story in vivid and gripping detail, in a timely and arresting reminder that individuals - their ambitions, limitations and human nature - lie at the very heart of global catastrophe.
If you think today's economy is scary, check out the Jazz Age horrors chronicled in this financial history of the interwar years and the central bankers who blighted them. Ahamed, an investment manager, surveys the economic upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s, when crushing war debts and reparations from WWI sparked hyperinflation in Germany and a host of lesser eruptions, all of it climaxing in the American stock market crash and the Great Depression. He tells the story through the central bank chiefs of Britain, France, Germany and the United States as they confront unprecedented crises while "shackled" by the "dead hand" of the gold standard, the era's reigning financial orthodoxy (economist John Maynard Keynes, foe of gold and apostle of economic activism, is the book's hero). The author injects unnecessary commentary about the bankers' neuroses and marital difficulties into his coverage of interest rate and currency fluctuations (New York Federal Reserve head Benjamin Strong, he notes, possessed a "large nose that spoke of ruthlessness"). Fortunately, his protagonists' high-wire efforts to stave off national bankruptcies furnish Ahamed with plenty of drama to highlight his engrossing analysis of the complexities of monetary policy. Photos.