From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this spry, smart history, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Gallatin, Stephen Girard, Nicholas Biddle and Andrew Jackson emerge as fully human characters-rather than a set of financial theories or beliefs-struggling to set the economic machine of America in motion. Wright and Cowen use biography to address financial history, showing, say, how Alexander Hamilton's life influenced his theory of finance, and how Hamilton's theory of finance influenced the United States. Readers will find that financial markets and instruments at the time were surprisingly sophisticated, and fully relevant to the discussion of finance today. Hamilton's genius lay in his Bank of the United States, established to allow America one day to compete with the foremost powers of Europe, and the story of his successors-Gallatin, Girard, and Biddle, who wisely navigated Hamilton's Bank-take readers through crises brought on by such familiar factors as speculative booms and busts, war debts, political opposition and special interests. If there is any flaw to this compelling account of the nation's early finances it is that the authors seem to lack faith in their subject's entertainment value, gilding the lily with human interest stories and catchy chapter titles like "Apocalypse No." Illuminating and ingratiating, this glimpse into the economics of the nation's first century could very well serve as required reading for students of American history and economics.
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"The early financial history of the United States merits additional popular and scholarly attention, and Wright and Cowen provide biographical information on nine founders of America's financial and economic systems, from Alexander Hamilton to Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle.… The book emphasizes biographical information with limited explanation of financial and economic arguments.… This book is useful for large public libraries so that general readers may understand formative economic ideas in American history."
"Wright and Cowen, who have separately written important scholarly works on the financial history of the early republic, here repackage their research for readers of popular history, and do so impressively."
(David Liss Washington Post
"The narrative seems natural, not stretched to cover a framework that skews the examples. You will enjoy this book and it can be used for a wide range of audiences from a supplementary reading for undergraduates to a departure for discussions in seminars to a good read on your flight home from a conference."
(Gerald Gunderson EH-Net
"This book, a welcome addition to the literature, meets its objective of providing an accessible introduction to the importance of the nation's financial infrastructure to its economic and political success."
(Timothy Cuff American Historical Review
"The Financial Founding Fathers works. I would recommend if for beginning students and anyone interested in a non-technical introduction to the financial history of the Young United States."
(Russell R. Menard History
"Seeking a readership beyond academia, Wright and Cowen tell a story that is brisk yet richly detailed. . . . For nonspecialists and teachers like this reviewer who slight financial history, there are many fine anecdotes and some real surprises."
(Lendol Calder The Historian
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