Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World Liaquat Ahamed

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Liaquat Ahamed is an American author who was born in Kenya. He has worked at the World Bank and at Fischer, Francis Trees and Watts, a fixed-income business and subsidiary of BNP Paribas. Ahamed has also served as a producer on the film The Situation through his production company, Red Wine Pictures. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at the Brookings Institution and is involved with the New America Foundation.

Ahamed is the author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2009), which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for History. The book narrates the events preceding the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929 and the disastrous response of the world’s major central banks. It follows the life and actions of the then chiefs of the central banks: Benjamin Strong Jr. of the New York Federal Reserve, Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Émile Moreau of the Banque de France, and Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank.

Lords of Finance provides insightful analysis of the world economic collapse in the late 1920s, revealing how the decisions of a few central bankers led to the Great Depression and set the stage for World War II. The book introduces the four men who led their respective central banks: Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Émile Moreau of the Banque de France, Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank, and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Despite their differences, they shared a common fear of inflation and a vision of returning the world to the gold standard.

In the mid-1920s, they achieved their goal, stabilizing the world’s currencies and facilitating the free flow of capital. However, the gold standard proved to be a straitjacket that ultimately led to the Great Depression. The book illustrates how the decisions of central bankers can have a profound impact on the global financial system and the human consequences of their fallibility.

As current economic turmoil dominates headlines, Lords of Finance offers a timely reminder of the dangers of financial crises and the pivotal role of central bankers in shaping the course of history.

Liaquat Ahamed, a hedge fund manager and Brookings Institution trustee, got the idea to write the book when he read the 1999 Time story “The Committee to Save the World,” which discussed Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers. The book was generally well received by critics and won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2010.

A strange and lonely man
The young wizard
A safe pair of hands
L’inspecteur des finances
Money generals
pt. 2. After the deluge, 1919-23.
Demented inspirations
Uncle Shylock
A barbarous relic
pt. 3. Sowing a new wind, 1923-28.
A bridge between chaos and hope
The Dawes opening
The golden chancellor
La Bataille
The first squalls
Un petit coup de whisky
pt. 4. Reaping another whirlwind, 1928-33.
Into the vortex
Purging the rottenness
Magneto trouble
A loose cannon on the deck of the world
Gold fetters
pt. 5. Aftermath, 1933-1944.
Gold standard on the booze
The caravans move on

564 pages


First published January 1, 2009

Author's website:

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