My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Too many history books give short shrift to the role of finances on the course of history. This book fills in a major plot hole about what went on between the two world wars. Ahamed does a great job of giving us a play-by-play of how the major central banks attempted to respond to events, including a clear picture of how the decision making process was affected by individual personalities and legacy dogma from the past. I wish the author had interspersed more of his analysis with the main text instead of saving it for the end. Ahamed builds a strong case that the gold standard was a key factor leading to dysfunctional decisions. As far as building a case that these bankers bungled their jobs, he would do better if he could come up with decisions that would have led to a better outcome. As it is, he shows people boxed in by circumstances beyond their control. In most of the situations he goes over, it appears they made the best choice available to them, and that in itself makes for a compelling if tragic story.
In fact, I wish more time had been spent on analysis overall. An economics book targeted at the mainstream audience should at least spend more time explaining about the balance of payments, and about how the trading in government securities affects trade in the private sector. But these are relatively minor complaints.
Stephen Hoye is not my favorite narrator. He has one of those superior sounding voices that imply he knows what he's talking about. I understand some people find that reassuring. If hearing someone read a book on economics and referring to "John Maynard KEENZ" all the way through doesn't bother you, then maybe you won't mind Mr. Hoye's narration. I found the British accent annoying, as he used the same one for every British person in the story, from Churchill to Keynes. Yet the other nationalities were either very mild or nonexistent as far as accents go.
This is a very interesting and well written book. Basically, a very useful and fairly detailed narrative of the International Financial History of, roughly, 1919 to 1933, with a short sketch of what came afterwards. I think the author is a little too orthodox in his economics for my taste, but that did not in any way abstract from the usefulesness or enjoyment of this book for me. However, the narrator was extremely annoying with his inability to pronounce the names of some major characters in economics. The surname of the economist JM Keynes is pronounced "Kay - ns" not "Keens" as the narrator kept mispronouncing it. The surname of Walter Bagehot, whose 19th century book "Lombard Street" is considered a classic and is certainly familiar to anyone who knows the least bit about central banking (precisely the target audience of this book) is pronounced "budget" not "Bag-hot" as the narrator, incredibly, and stupidly, kept mispronouncing it. Granted, the pronunciation of these two names is not obvious, but it's not that difficult to check before starting reading. I need not even mention the catastrophic and (to anyone who understands German) fairly annoying way the narrator mispronounced German terms (of which there are quite a few peppered around the book). Sometimes it got to the point that it was impossible for German speakers to understand which German term was read! Awful, tell the man to check pronunciation the next time he does a book.
This was a very pleasurable listening experience of a fascinating and riveting economic history Europe and the United States in the period spanning the two world wars.
The audiobook is unabridged and consequently quite long at over 17 hours. It took me about a month to get through but didn't ever feel like dragging.
The narration uses a 1920's and 1930's American radio announcer voice that is perfect for this story. The humor is delivered deadpan.
The more they stay the same.
Fascinating book which reminds us that disastrous consequences often arise from best laid plans.
Greed and hubris were as much at play in the interwar period as they are today.
A great book for history buffs.
Extremely good. Scholarly, accurate, entertaining. Weakest on France, but so good on Norman (especially him), Strong (and then Harrison) and Schacht that the author can be excused.
A highly informative history of monetary policy and economics in the period around World War One through the Great Depression. Focusing on the key players involved in policy in the U.S., England, France and Germany.