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Lords of Finance


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About the Author

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 Group, is a director of Aspen Insurance Co. and is on the board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution. He has degrees in economics from Harvard and Cambridge Universities.


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. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In this historical study, Ahamed, a professional money manager, sums up the causes of the Great Depression as a series of economic policy blunders that could have been avoided. He cites as causal factors the inflationary financing of World War I by printing money, the insurmountable war debts of Germany and the Allies, Germany's plunge into hyperinflation, and the return of most currencies to the gold standard at excessive and deflationary prewar rates. For example, he explains that when the U.S. stock market bubble burst in 1929 and economic activity collapsed, the central banks were restrained in stimulating the economy for fear of losing their gold reserves. In an epilog, Ahamed draws parallels between the crises of the Great Depression and those in recent times. He keeps his history interesting by highlighting the personalities of the heads of the major central banks, and he employs the economist John Maynard Keynes as a one-man Greek chorus critiquing the bankers' actions. This erudite and exceedingly well-written tale of financial chaos in the 1920s and 1930s is both timely and instructive for today's economic climate. Highly recommended for all academic and most public libraries.-Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"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

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