Lords Of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World

Paperback | December 29, 2009

byLiaquat Ahamed

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Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize

"A magisterial work...You can't help thinking about the economic crisis we're living through now." --The New York Times Book Review


It is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 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 made by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of that economic meltdown, the effects of which set the stage for World War II and reverberated for decades. As yet another period of economic turmoil makes headlines today, Lords of Finance is a potent reminder of the enormous impact that the decisions of central bankers can have, their fallibility, and the terrible human consequences that can result when they are wrong.

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From the Publisher

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize"A magisterial work...You can't help thinking about the economic crisis we're living through now." --The New York Times Book Review It is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 resulted from a confluence of events beyond any one person's or government's control. In fact, as Liaqu...

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 adviser to several hedge fund groups, including the Rock Creek Group and the Rohatyn Gro...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:576 pages, 8.35 × 5.5 × 1.2 inPublished:December 29, 2009Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143116800

ISBN - 13:9780143116806

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Customer Reviews of Lords Of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Read, Historical Financial Lords of finance a well written Pulitzer prize winning novel describing the financial booms and bust of the early 90's. The novel expertly ties financial decisions and consequences to the historical events taking place. A challenging read filled with a plethora of information, I will most definitely be reading this novel a second and third time. As a recent accounting and finance graduate this novel provided magnificent insights into the practical applications of finance. I would recommend anyone in finance or banking to read this novel as it provides insights to the decisions that were made good and bad. From inflation to hyperinflation, deflation and devaluation to booms and busts Lords of Finance does a remarkable job bringing the reader to the time period of the most prosperous period of economic growth and to the great depression. The bankers who broke the world.
Date published: 2015-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Financial writing at its best The perils of deflation and inflation, the punitive and long-lasting impact of war reparations, the difficulties of the gold standard (which had worked for many years due to the coincidental rate of economic growth and the addition of new gold reserves); dry themes to be sure, but ones which in the hands of author Liaquat Ahamed flow easily through the global economic turbulence of the 1920s and 30s. Lords of Finance is a sweeping narrative focusing on France, Britain, Germany and the US, and the central bankers who were responsible for their monetary policy. The story covers several decades and a phalanx of leaders, and unfolds chronologically with players entering and exiting the world economic stage in due course - a cast and story worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille movie, and handled with equal panache. Ahamed deservedly garnered a Pulitzer Prize for this book (and ironically given their role in the current financial turbulence, Goldman Sachs’ ‘Business Book of the Year’ honours). What sets this book apart from other non-fiction texts are the author’s twin strenghts of character and plot development. Just as Charles Dickens detailed the lives of fictional, ordinary citizens living a half a century earlier with his wonderful, larger than life caricatures and in doing so captured the tenor of the time, Ahamed brings to life the larger-than-life players on the global economic stage between the two World Wars. After explaining the development and role of central banks and the gold standard, Ahamed focuses on character development and is able to weave a first rate story from otherwise dry material. The book has the best characteristics of Sorkin’s “Too Big To Fail”, Galbraith’s “The Great Crash”, and Ferguson’s “The Ascent of Money”: details of relationships, decisions, results and repercussions; historical perspective and a flair with language; and an ability to narrate important events from a non-traditional, economic perspective, respectively. The following quote is typical of Ahamed’s style, “While the Bank of England was a solidly bourgeois institution, egalitarian in the way that an exclusive men’s club is democratic among its members, the Banque de France was from its birth an aristocratic place, even if the aristocracy was only a few years old (p.244).” Beautiful prose that is expanded upon with further relevant details about each institution and their relationships with each other. There are many parallels to today. For example, Ahamed, writing of the excessive runups in Florida real estate and in the stock market in the late 1920s, notes the belief of some at the time (Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover included) that the Federal Reserve’s “policy of keeping interest rates artifically low … was responsible for fueling the incipient bubble (p.276).” One cannot help thinking of Alan Greenspan and the stock market and housing bubbles of recent times. Similarly, writing of 1932 Ahamed states, “Bankers were now seen as crooks and rogues (p440)”, and of 1933 “that the public was soon riveted by the tales of financial skullduggery in high places.” The parallels lead one to ruminate about the state of world affairs today, about American and other Western nations’ fiscal and balance of trade deficits, about inflationary and deflationary pressures, and about the unforeseen chain reaction of events from seemingly isolated decisions and misteps by nations’ leaders. The brief epilogue helps readers draw some parallels to financial crises of the past fifteen years or so. History may not repeat, or even rhyme, but it can make for a prize winning and thought provoking narrative a few years on. An excellent book.
Date published: 2011-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the time Although it starts very slowly, this chronicle of the economic years between WWI and WWII is well worth the initial drudgery. The book acts as an excellent primer for anyone truly interested in the fundamentals of economics and international finance as the period in question was the 'Enlightenment' of our modern system. The book is not a tough read as it really only addresses the issues from a high level. The one complaint I might have would be that the author, while dealing with the issues without significant detail, at times argues that Keynes understanding of the field was superior to all others. Where undoubtedly Keynes was a brilliant economist, he was wrong ('common good') as often as he was right (gold as a 'barbarous relic'). All-in-all, a worthy read.
Date published: 2010-04-10

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Editorial Reviews

“A magisterial work…As you learn how the world spiraled into depression…you can’t help thinking about the economic crisis we’re living through now.”—The New York Times Book Review   “The rich and charming story of the end of the world.”—Time   “Lords of Finance is highly readable .... That it should appear now, as history threatens to repeat itself, compounds its appeal.”—Niall Ferguson, Financial Times   “There is terrific prescience to be found in [Lords of Finance’s] portrait of times past…[A] writer of great verve and erudition, [Ahamed] easily connects the dots between the economic crises that rocked the world during the years his book covers and the fiscal emergencies that beset us today. He does this winningly enough to make his book about an international monetary horror story seem like a labor of love… Mr. Ahamed does a superlative job of explaining the ever-germane way the problems of one shyster, one bank, one treasury or one economy can set off repercussions all around the globe.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times   “This absorbing study of the first collective of central bankers is provocative, not least because it is still relevant.”—The Economist   “This is narrative history at its most vivid, an epic portrait of how the predecessors of Ben Bernanke, Jean-Claude Trichet and Mervyn King helped shove economies into the abyss in 1929…His reportorial style has the Barbara Tuchman touch. Learned yet unpretentious, he dips into diaries, letters and cables to pull out evocative vignettes…Central bankers, [Ahamed] says, can resemble Sisyphus in Greek mythology— condemned to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again. Like Alan Greenspan, the four men described here saw their apparent successes melt into failure.”—Bloomberg News   “The parallels evidenced by Ahamed between state of the world financial system then and now add to the fascination of this remarkable achievement in history, biography and analysis.”—Fort Worth Star Telegram   “An outstanding book…[Ahamed] found a fascinating frame for relating global economic history from the beginning of World War I until the dying days of World War II.”—The Houston Chronicle  “[Ahamed’s] 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.”—Publishers Weekly   “Erudite, entertaining macroeconomic history of the lead-up to the Great Depression as seen through the careers of the West’s principal bankers…Spellbinding, insightful and, perhaps most important, timely.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)   “Books grounded in history sometimes offer an eerie resonance for contemporary readers. Rarely has that statement seemed truer than with Lords of Finance.”— Steve Weinberger, Dallas Morning News   “[A] wonderful new history”—Newsweek