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This book was commissioned by the Bank of England, when Mervyn (now Lord) King was Governor. The aim was to produce a popular history of the Bank, an institution important in Britain since its inception. If it was intended to be a popular volume, the kind that flies off the shelves in bookshops, I hope that I’m right when I say it will not.
How does one define empire? What are the characteristics of a successful empire? These two questions arise foremost after reading John Darwin’s monumental masterpiece After Tamerlane. In nine succinct chapters with informative titles, Darwin encompassed 600 years of global history, supported by illustrations and maps and for those interested, suggestions for further reading.
Addressing how modern nations have found themselves, as President George W. Bush saw it, ‘stuck with these miserable choices’ when it comes to resolving financial crises, is at the centre of Larry Neal’s concise history of international finance.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.