Synopses & Reviews
In this exciting new book, Peter L. Bernstein, who chronicled the evolution of risk in his recent bestseller, Against the Gods, tells the story of history's most coveted, celebrated, and inglorious asset: gold. From the ancient fascinations of Moses and Midas through the modern convulsions caused by the gold standard and its aftermath, gold has led many of its most eager and proud possessors to a bad end. Gold had them, rather than the other way around. And while the same cycle of obsession and desperation may reverberate in today's fast-moving, electronically-driven stock markets, the role of gold in shaping human history is the striking feature of this tumultuous tale. Such is the power of gold.
This fascinating account begins with the magical, religious, and artistic qualities of gold and progresses to the invention of coinage, the transformation of gold into money, and the gold standard. The more important gold becomes as money, the more loudly it speaks of power--even more loudly than when it served as an entry to Heaven or a symbol of omnipotence. Ultimately, the book confronts the future of gold in a world where it appears to have been relegated to the periphery of global finance.
From the Bible to the Gold Rush era to modern day Fort Knox and beyond, unforgettable characters stride through these pages. Contemplate gold from the diverse perspectives of monarchs and moneyers, potentates and politicians, men of legendary wealth and others of more plebeian beginnings; from Asia Minor's King Croesus to Rome's noted speculator Crassus, to Byzantine emperors and humble miners, Venice's Marco Polo and Spain's Francisco Pizarro, to Charlemagne and Charles de Gaulle, Richard I and Richard Nixon, Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill, Britain's economists David Ricardo and John Maynard Keynes, and Christopher Columbus and the Forty-Niners. Perhaps most remarkable are the frantic speculators who pushed gold to $850.00 an ounce in 1980 just as their counterparts twenty years later drove Internet stocks to exorbitant heights.
Whether it is Egyptian pharaohs with depraved tastes, the luxury-mad survivors of the Black Death, the Chinese inventor of paper money, the pirates on the Spanish Main, or the hardnosed believers in the international gold standard like the United States' President Herbert Hoover, gold has been the supreme possession. It has been an icon for greed and an emblem of rectitude, as well as a vehicle for vanity and a badge of power that has shaped the destiny of humanity through the ages. As Bernstein muses, "The joke is that nothing is as useless and useful all at the same time."
Far more than a tale of romantic myths, daring explorations, and the history of money and power struggles, The Power of Gold suggests that the true significance of this infamous element may lie in the timeless passions it continues to evoke, and what this reveals about ourselves.
Incorporating the legends of kingdoms and tribes, journeys and societies, the author of this book tells the story of how human beings have become intoxicated, obsessed, enriched, impoverished, humble, and proud for the sake of gold.
The Power of Gold tells how history's most coveted, celebrated, and inglorious asset has inspired romantic myths, daring explorations, and titanic struggles for money and power. Gold has been an icon for greed and an emblem of rectitude as well as a vehicle for vanity. But the true significance of this infamous metal may lie in the timeless passions it continues to evoke and what it reveals about ourselves.
"The story of gold-in all its splendor and mythology, its fascination for individuals and nations alike.... Peter Bernstein is up to the challenge. His spritely exposition is a fine read even as it makes us think and reflect." -Paul A. Volcker, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve
"...a fascinating story...wittily written and full of original insights.... Peter Bernstein has once more written a brilliant book, both highly instructive and entertaining." -Pierre Keller, Former Senior Partner, Lombard Odier & Cie, Geneva
"Hats off! We are in the presence of a master...to read with such delight...the astonishing width and depth of Bernstein's knowledge." -Roger G. Kennedy, Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History
"This book is a noble treatment of the most noble of elements. The Power of Gold is a brilliant and unexpected tale of three thousand years of a metal as virtual reality." -Steve Jones, author, Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated
"Admirably written...a wonderfully interesting view-not alone of gold but of the greater economic history. Like other of his work, it is assured of a wide readership." -John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University
The best-selling author of Against the Gods reveals the dramatic record of human nature reflected in the ways human beings have behaved in relation to gold throughout the history of civilization.
Praise for The Power of Gold and Peter l. Bernstein
"Mr. Bernstein has turned this story-not an obvious golden opportunity for even a writer of Mr. Bernstein's skill-into a real page-turner."-The Wall Street Journal
"Bernstein's volume is a tour de force with a satisfying conclusion: The characters in this drama prove themselves 'fools for gold, chasing an illusion.' "-Business Week
"This book is an eloquent, brilliantly written historical review of how gold has influenced the evolution of monetary systems and trade, from early civilizations to the present day. Bernstein succeeds in presenting an enormous amount of research in a format as easy to read and as captivating as the best murder mystery."-Risk magazine
"There are sugarplums throughout the book....The pleasure of the book is in its sheer number of unknown places and interesting episodes."-The New York Times
"The triumph of Peter Bernstein's book is that in the end you understand why and how it happened that the golden dog no longer barks. Bernstein is America's greatest living economic journalist."-The Boston Globe
"Bernstein . . . does full justice to his material. Almost every chapter contains some detail to surprise or delight."-Financial Times
"The range of research evident throughout the book is staggering.... Bernstein's ear for the telling quote is pitch perfect."-USA Today
About the Author
PETER L. BERNSTEIN combines the zest of a historian with the meticulous analytical powers of an economist. He is the author of seven other books on economics and finance, including the bestsellers Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk and Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street. Bernstein is President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc. He established the firm in 1973 as economic consultants to institutional investors and publisher of Economics & Portfolio Strategy, a semi-monthly newsletter. He lectures widely throughout the United States and abroad and has received the highest honors from his peers in the investment profession.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Supreme Possession.
A METAL FOR ALL SEASONS.
Get Gold at All Hazards.
Midas's Wish and the Creatures of Pure Chance.
Darius's Bathtub and the Cackling of the Geese.
The Symbol and the Faith.
Gold, Salt, and the Blessed Town.
The Legacy of Eoba, Babba, and Udd.
The Great Chain Reaction.
The Disintegrating Age and the King's Ransoms.
The Sacred Thirst.
THE PATH TO TRIUMPH.
The Fatal Poison and Private Money.
The Asian Necropolis and Hien Tsung's Inadvertent Innovation.
The Great Recoinage and the Last of the Magicians.
The True Doctrine and the Great Evil.
The New Mistress and the Cursed Discovery.
The Badge of Honor.
The Most Stupendous Conspiracy and the Endless Chain.
THE DESCENT FROM GLORY.
The Norman Conquest.
The End of the Epoch.
The Transcending Value.
World War Eight and the Thirty Ounces of Gold.
Epilogue: The Supreme Possession?