"A thorough retelling of a criticalthough often overlookedaspect of U.S. history. Wall Street will be enjoyed not just by the warriors who work there but also by the growing legions of Main Street investors whose retirements depend on the fortunes of the stock market."The Wall Street Journal
Wall Street: A Historyby Charles R. Geisst
How did a small, concentrated pocket of lower Manhattan come to have such enormous influence in national and world affairs? In this wide-ranging volume, economic historian Charles Geisst answers this question as he provides the first history of Wall Street, ranging from the loose association of traders meeting on New York sidewalks and coffee houses in the late
How did a small, concentrated pocket of lower Manhattan come to have such enormous influence in national and world affairs? In this wide-ranging volume, economic historian Charles Geisst answers this question as he provides the first history of Wall Street, ranging from the loose association of traders meeting on New York sidewalks and coffee houses in the late 18th century, to the modern billion-dollar computer-driven colossus of today. Geisst's narrative traces several themesthe move of industry and business westward in the early 19th century, the rise of the great Robber Barons, the influence of the securities market on incredible growth of industry, and the gradual increase in government involvement in Wall Streetand also features a look at the some of Wall Street's most colorful and ruthless wheeler dealers.
Wall Street is at once a chronicle of the street itself, from the days when the wall was merely a defensive barricade built by Peter Stuyvesant, and in a broader sense it is an engaging economic history of the United States, a tale of profits and losses, endlessly enterprising spirits, and the role Wall Street played in helping America become the most powerful economy in the world.
"Wall Street" is an umbrella term for the financial community centered in New York City, not a single endeavor located at a specific address. Given the role of private investment in a capitalist economic system, it is also inextricably linked to government finance, all sectors of the domestic economy, and economic activity worldwide. This makes Wall Street difficult to define, let alone document over time, but Geisst nevertheless plunges forward with a general survey. The result is an account that remains on the surface yet will often be inaccessible to those without some knowledge of the market; this compendium of information lacks any framework to guide the reader through events. To make matters worse, the broader political environment is sometimes misrepresented: How can one characterize the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s as "the very opposite of Republican [Party] principles" when Republicans had championed protective tariffs for the preceding 60 years? The most disconcerting quality of this volume, however, is a function of Geisst's effort to combine honest description with a proWall Street perspective. For example, President Truman's suspicions "that financiers had been conspiring to rig the underwriting business in their own favor" are characterized as his "bias against Wall Street," despite Geisst's extensive accounts of financiers doing precisely what Truman suspected. Even stranger is the assertion that the dismissal of a government case alleging collusion on Wall Street proved that investment bankers are "vital to the economy"; vital they may be, but drawing this conclusion here is certainly a non sequitur.
A history of Wall Street educating the general public about this important and often confusing institution is a worthy goaland one not yet achieved.
Meet the Author
About the Author:
Charles Geisst is Professor of Finance in the School of Business, Manhattan College, and author of Investment Banking in the Financial System and Exchange Rate Chaos.
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