Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lords of Finance: The Bankers That Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

Lords of Finance: The Bankers That Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

In 2009 we’re deep into a major recession in the United States and many other countries throughout the world are experiencing many of the same problems. Each week we hear comparisons to previous recessions and economic downturns – but the benchmark for all financial crisis is the “Great Depression”. So, this seems like a great time to read and learn more about what happened around the world from the end of World War I and the late 1930’s. Liaquat Ahamed has written a great book that documents what was happening in the world during this twenty year period. I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about what lead up to the Great Depression and how the financial leaders handled it – must read this book.

In 1918 the world was reeling from the events during World War I and they were trying to rebuild their countries and the economies in those countries. We are all familiar with the bare bones of the end of World War I, the Roaring Twenties in the United States, rebuilding in Europe, the financial crash in the United States, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and many of the other events between 1918 and 1938.

· But, how many of us know the details of the individual financial systems in the United States, France, Britain and Germany?

· Do you know what people managed the financial decisions in these countries during that time?

· Do you understand how the gold standard worked and what that meant for each country?

· Do you know what happened in the ongoing debate about war reparations and what that did to various economies around the world?

· What happened within Germany when they were ordered to pay substantial reparations after the war?

· What happened when Germany started printing money around the clock to boost the economy?

These are just a few of the questions that are answered in this book.

In school I remember learning that the financial situation in Germany after World War I was one thing that enabled Adolf Hitler to gain power in Germany. But I never understand the extent of the financial crisis. My depth of understanding on that piece of history has increased dramatically. Understanding what happened in the different countries and the various domino effects are staggering as you turn the pages and see how things fell apart.

I love to read about history and to get a deeper understanding of what led to various events. But I think in the current economic climate – this information is even more important. Most of us have heard the saying that “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it”. That idea kept coming to mind as I read this book and saw many examples of the things these power players in the worldwide economic community tried that failed and in a good number of cases – made the situation much worse.

Through the pages of this book you will meet Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Emile Moreau of the Banque of France, Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank in Germany and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition, you will learn how each of these men reached these positions and much about the history of these various financial institutions.

Anyone interested in the economy – and especially people who could make a positive difference in the financial situation – should be required to read this book. For people who are concerned about authenticity – there are 23 pages of notes and references for the information in the book and a 12 page bibliography. This is a long book – over 500 pages of content, plus the notes, bibliography and index. It took me a while to read the book – because its not really the sort of content you want to rush through, but I thoroughly enjoyed the content and feel like I have a much more complete understanding of the things that led up to the Great Depression and how the world recovered from this crisis.