Why Iceland?: How One of the World's Smallest Countries Became the Meltdown's Biggest Casualty

Hardcover | August 3, 2009

byAsgeir Jonsson

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As late as the mid 1980s, Iceland’s economyrevolved around little else than a semi-robustcod-fishing industry. By the end of the century, however,it had transformed itself into a major player inworld finance, building an international bankingempire worth twelve times its GDP. The tiny islandnation of 300,000 was one of the global economy’sgreat success stories.

And then everything came crashing down.

Why Iceland? is the inside account of one ofthe economic meltdown’s most fascinating andfar-reaching tragedies. As Chief Economist ofKaupthing Bank, the country’s largest bank beforethe collapse, Ásgeir Jónsson is perfectly suited toexamine Iceland’s collapse in painstaking detail.He witnessed behind-the-scenes events firsthand,such as an intriguing meeting in January 2008 whena group of international hedge fund managersgathered in a bar in Reykjavik to discuss Iceland’seconomy—an informal affair that eventually becamethe center of a criminal investigation by thecountry’s Financial Supervisory Authority.

This inside account examines the pressing issuesbehind history’s biggest banking collapse:

  • How did Iceland transform itself fromone of Europe’s poorest to one of itswealthiest countries?
  • What happened to cause the destructionof the nation’s banking industry during asingle week of October 2008?
  • Was it the result of a speculation “attack”by hedge funds on the nation’s currency?

    Iceland remains the biggest casualty of theeconomic downturn, and the ramifications of itscatastrophic failure reach deeply into the economiesof Europe, the United States, and other globalmarkets. Ásgeir Jónsson offers a unique perspectiveand an expert’s insight into the rise and fall of thisonce-proud banking giant.

    Why Iceland? provides the who, what, where, andwhen of Iceland’s demise, serving as a fascinatingread and providing the understanding necessary forforecasting when and where the aftershocks willshake up markets in other parts of the world.

    "Fearsome Vikings discovered Iceland. Hedge funds knocked it down. It was a humiliating tumble for the former financial powerhouse, which was proud of its status in Europe. A late bloomer, Iceland had been the last country in Europe to be settled, the Nordic nation rapidly caught up with its wealthier relations. It was all fine until October 2008, when country's banking system collapsed in a week. Written by an Icelandic economist, Why Iceland? chronicles the meltdown, in the context of the nation's history."--New York Post (A "Required Reading" Selection)

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From the Publisher

As late as the mid 1980s, Iceland’s economyrevolved around little else than a semi-robustcod-fishing industry. By the end of the century, however,it had transformed itself into a major player inworld finance, building an international bankingempire worth twelve times its GDP. The tiny islandnation of 300,000 was one of the global econo...

From the Jacket

The Saga of an Empire that Disappeared OvernightIn October 2008, Iceland became the unlikely epicenter of the catastrophicglobal banking collapse. In a few short years the tiny nation on the periphery ofEurope had built a banking empire to rival any other on the planet. Then, withina single week in October 2008, the entire country coll...

Ásgeir Jónsson is head of research and chief economist at Kaupthing Bank, the biggest bank in Iceland until the nation’s banking collapse. He previously served as assistant professor of banking and international finance at the University of Iceland. Jónsson is the author of several books about the economy and history ...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9.3 × 6.4 × 0.88 inPublished:August 3, 2009Publisher:McGraw-Hill EducationLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0071632840

ISBN - 13:9780071632843

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Table of Contents

1. Why Iceland?
2. A Brief Discussion of the Icelandic Economy and History
3. The Building of a Banking Empire
4. The Geyser crisis of 2006
5. The Walk of the Hedge Funds
6. The Road To Perdition
7. Our Iceberg is Melting
8. Behind the Barricades
9. The Future of Iceland and the Future of International Banking

Editorial Reviews

"A provocative, urgently important case study in international finance."