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A hundred years ago, many theorists believed—just as they did at the beginning of our twenty-first century—that the world had reached a state of economic perfection, a never before seen human interdependence that would lead to universal growth and prosperity. Then, as now, the German mark was one of the most trusted currencies in the world. Yet the early years of the Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed the most calamitous meltdown of a developed economy in modern times. The Downfall of Money will tell anew the ...
A hundred years ago, many theorists believed—just as they did at the beginning of our twenty-first century—that the world had reached a state of economic perfection, a never before seen human interdependence that would lead to universal growth and prosperity. Then, as now, the German mark was one of the most trusted currencies in the world. Yet the early years of the Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed the most calamitous meltdown of a developed economy in modern times. The Downfall of Money will tell anew the dramatic story of the hyperinflation that saw the mark—worth 4.2 to the dollar in 1914—plunge, until it traded at over 4 trillion to 1 by the autumn of 1923.
The story of the Weimar Republic’s financial crisis clearly resonates today, when the world is again anxious about what money is, what it means, and how we can judge if its value is true. It is a trajectory of events uncomfortably relevant in our own uncertain world.
Frederick Taylor—one of the leading historians of Germany writing today—explores the causes of the crisis and what the collapse meant to ordinary people, and traces its connection to the dark decades that followed. Drawing on a wide range of sources and accessibly presenting vast amounts of research, The Downfall of Money is a timely and chilling exploration of a haunting episode in history.
"One of the brightest historians writing today." —Newsweek
"Taylor (Dresden) adds to a solid body of work on 20th-century Germany with this chilling account of the human face of hyperinflation in the 1920s Weimar Republic." —Publisher's Weekly
"Excellent . . . By skillfully weaving together economic history with political narrative and drawing on sources from everyday life as well as the inner cabinet of diplomacy, Mr. Taylor tells the history of the Weimar inflation as the life-and-death struggle of the first German democracy . . . This is a dramatic story, well told." —Adam Tooze, Wall Street Journal
"A well-organized, fast-moving political narrative . . . Taylor's history provides plenty of revelant lessons for today—and not only for Europe." —Kirkus Reviews
"Exorcising Hitler has . . . colorful anecdotes and harrowing recollections, an omnivorous intelligence and wide reading in the scholarly literature." —New York Times on Exorcising Hitler
"Important . . . very commendable . . . fills an important gap in German history in English." —Wall Street Journal on Exorcising Hitler
Posted September 28, 2013
I always open Fred Taylor's books with a sense of great anticipation. His style brings alive what it was like to be there - and this book is no exception. How did one survive - and some thrive - when the mark to the US$ exchange rate went from 4.19 in August 1914 to 6.7 trillion in December 1923? We find out.
Who was to blame? Just about everyone had some role. The Germans actually had a policy of allowing inflation since this wiped out internal debt, much of it owed to the upper middle class, leading to a massive social upheaval and loss of class privilege on an unprecedented level. The Americans refused to even discuss forgiving any of the war debt owed by all of the major European powers, forcing France, one of the largest debtors, to insist on impossibly high reparations by the Germans. Britain supported France but pressed for more realistic repayments. France, after defaults by Germany, invaded and occupied the Ruhr causing Germany even more problems both politically and financially. How could any German government hold all this together?
Internally, few Germans accepted that the war was their fault and most believed the reparations were unjust. Organised labor, flirting dangerously close to Communism, was pitted against anti-Republicans (who controlled the remains of the militia). After years of carting around wheelbarrows full of worthless paper marks, both sides were clamoring for a strong dictatorship to restore order. Enter Corporal Hitler.
Although there is a great deal of information conveyed in the book, Fred Taylor makes it exciting and accessible. It is quite a story and, if like me, you did not know or had forgotten much of the detail, you have a treat in store. It is commonplace to blame the Treaty of Versailles for the Second World War, but, like most things, it was a lot more complex than that. This book reveals all.
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Posted February 1, 2014