Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

The Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed

When the Western world emerged, shattered and still smoking, from the chaos of World War I, its finances were largely in the hands of four eccentric, colorful, occasionally brilliant individuals: Benjamin Strong Jr. of the New York Federal Reserve; Montagu Norman of the Bank of England; Emile Moreau, governor of the Banc de France; and Hjalmer Schacht, president of the German Reichsbank. Ahamed, a banker himself, explains how the personalities of these four men, and the complex web of relationships among them, led to their collective attempt to return their countries to the gold standard, which in turn precipitated the catastrophic depression of the 1930s. It's a rich and cautionary tale — a conspiracy story far better, and stranger, than anything by Dan Brown.