Without exaggeration there are few crime novels which can keep up, keep the
reader glued to pages than the financial history of Western Europe. A history
that has time and again been swept under the carpet, been forgotten in truly
Orwellian manner. And that is just one of the surprises when reading this book.
First published in the 80s, this books keeps what others promise.
Charles Kindleberger, the author, first provides a nice insight into how money and
banking evolved in this part of Europe from about 1400 onwards, including how
governement financing developed, listing such things as
Financial Revolution, The Power to Tax in England, Tax Farming,
Taxation, Borrowing, Selling Assets, ...Following this is then a chapter how
these government powers turned into a problem, causing poverty, economic
problems and financial crisis. Souvereigns, monarchs, were in financial trouble time
and again, occasionally defaulting on their debt.
One also gets a clear idea how things worked out eventually. For instance the
Spanish quest for gold and silver in the newly discovered Americas. A rather
bloody bit of history for one. And were for good reasons doomed to failure.
Kindleberger: The Spanish were at war during most of the sixteenth and first
half of the seventeenth century until ... the end of the Thirty Year War in 1648.
... They encouraged in warlike pursuits, and discouraged in the more humdrum
pursuits of agricluture, commerce and industry by the rich treasure uncovered
in the New World. The treasure was spent as fast, and frequently even faster, than
it was acquired. ... Spain was forced at the end of the sixteenth century to debase
its money with copper bought in Europe.
Great is also the insight into war finance and the consequences: In the Middle Ages
bankers were brought to ruin less by collapsing commodity and security markets,
as in modern times, than by failure of kings to meet debts incurred to raise
mercenary armies and to subsidize allies.
Needless to say that Kindleberger tells of currency debasement, a fraud commited
by monarchs numerous times. Ot that 24 bankers were sent to the guillotine in the
French revolution as a consequence of their failure
The generous insight possible in this case on Google books can really be appreciated.
The reader, visitor, gets to know what the book is really about, what it is dealing with,
better then any review could provide.
It should be mentioned that the book is sold way cheaper on amazon.co.uk (UK) for
a price around £ 21 than on amozon.com (US) where it is really expensive.
Another reason why this book deserves praise is the calm manner in which it is
written. Kindelberger does not incite to incite to wailing, ranting, outrage, one
serious problem of our present times. The reader thus does not lose brain and
understanding of what happened, but can follow up for instance how kings,
governements, turned to all kinds of taxation when in problem, apart from
usually resorting to fraudulent measures and deceit. The book is great by
giving a proper insight and thus is of use for anyone who does not want any
such disasters. There is really nothing that would recommend big time