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Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800 (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) Hardcover – June 27, 2010

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Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800 (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) + Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Economic History of the Western World
  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (June 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691139059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691139050
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



"Grossman's is a good read. The book tells you as to how we got to be where we are. There are lessons to be learnt for those who want to go about reshaping reforms in global banking."--BusinessWorld

"Grossman weaves an enormous amount of research into an impressive history of the banking industry in many developed countries over the last 200 years. His focuses primarily on changes in the size and structure of the banking industry over time and argues that banks and bank assets rise as a share of overall economic output and then fall as a country moves from developing to developed. . . . [T]his work represents a valuable contribution to the history of banking."--Choice

"Professor Grossman has assembled an impressive collection of historical, statistical, and bibliographic data, one that would be extremely difficult to reproduce using other sources. This information will prove invaluable for those conducting intensive research on commercial or international banking, and Unsettled Account will make an excellent addition for libraries that commonly serve such patrons. Academic law libraries at institutions offering specific courses in commercial banking may also want to consider a copy."--Shannon L. Kemen, Law Library Journal

"Unsettled Account provides us with a new and welcome history of the last three centuries of banking. Who should read this book? A lot of people. For the legions of political, social and cultural historians, if they have to read one book on the historical evolution of banking, this is it. It will provide them with the needed theoretical background without an equation in sight, useful country studies, and the insights needed to instruct their students. For the legions of economic theorists, if they have to read one book on the historical evolution of banking, this is it. The book is a guide to every key stylized fact they might use for a model, identifying the broad parameters of institutions and history. For the legions of policy makers, if they have to read one book on the historical evolution of banking, this is it. Distanced from the crisis of the moment, Grossman nicely hits the key issues and distills some relevant lessons."--Eugene White, EH.Net

"[A] number of books stand out as works of real scholarship written by experts in their fields. Unsettled Account should be numbered among the best of those produced so far."--Ranald Michie, BHR

"Richard Grossman has produced a valuable and accessible synthesis of research on some key aspects of banking history in this publication. . . . Students and academics with an interest in financial history, as well as practitioners and regulators, would benefit from reading Unsettled Account."--John Singleton, Australian Economic History Review

"Richard Grossman has long been a well regarded figure in the field of financial history, and he has applied his knowledge and analysis to produce a comparative history of banking in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."--Ranald Michie, Business History Review

"What Grossman has done, in drawing our attention to the way in which past banking crises have been dealt with, is a significant contribution to the literature on the problems and difficulties involved in dealing with banks."--Jonathan Warner, European Legacy

From the Inside Flap

"What to do about the banks--tax them, break them up, or leave them alone--is topic number one on the financial reform agenda in the wake of the recent crisis. Understanding where to go requires first understanding how we got here. Richard Grossman's rich description of the historical life cycle of banking systems, not just in the United States but around the world, is the essential guide. If what's past is prologue, then this book should be essential reading for aspiring financial reformers."--Barry Eichengreen, University of California, Berkeley

"Unsettled Account details the history of commercial banking from ancient Greece to modern times. Blending history, economics, and politics, this book provides a remarkably thorough, engaging, and readable account of how our financial institutions have developed. Extraordinarily relevant to today's troubled financial affairs, it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand contemporary banking."--Jeffry Frieden, Harvard University

"Richard Grossman has written an excellent treatise on the salient factors explaining the evolution of banking in advanced countries in the past two centuries. His comparative historical study of the banking systems of a number of important countries fills a gap in the literature which has been open for at least four decades. This book is a necessary addition to the libraries of serious scholars of financial history."--Michael Bordo, Rutgers University

"Richard Grossman's history of banking is a bold and hugely successful enterprise which could not have appeared at a better time. This is an elegantly written account of the origins, role, and contribution of these institutions through all manner of circumstances. An indispensable guide."--Forrest Capie, Bank of England

"This is an exciting panorama of the worldwide evolution of commercial banking during the past two hundred years. Covering a large number of countries, Grossman focuses on four major themes of banking: financial crises, resolution policies, mergers, and bank regulation. Providing a broad and pervasive view of the challenges to banking in the past and present, this is a must-read for all those interested in gaining a thorough understanding of the current problems in the financial system."--Lars Jonung, European Commission

"Until now, banking history has stubbornly clung to national boundaries, comparative inquiries being rare. In this book, the author has done an excellent job of synthesizing the large and varied literature, producing a readable and accessible book."--Joost Jonker, Utrecht University

"This excellent and well-organized book will be the standard reference on commercial banking history for years to come."--Michael Bordo, Rutgers University

More About the Author

Richard S. Grossman is Professor of Economics at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, and a 2013-14 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Prior to joining the faculty at Wesleyan, he worked as an international economist at the United States Department of State. He has worked and consulted on Wall Street and has testified as an expert witness in federal court. He has published widely in scholarly journals and newspapers. His website is RichardSGrossman.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @RSGrossman and read his blog at UnsettledAccount.com.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on August 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a reasonably straightforward introduction to the history of banking in the West. There is a very brisk account of banking in the ancient world, with a few paragraphs on developments up to the mid-16th century; details begin with the 19th century and the first recognizable banks. Grossman turns next to banking failures, rescue strategies, merger movements (1), [preventive] regulation, and the post-Bretton Woods move toward deregulation (2). There is also a sampling of the historical development in selected countries: the UK, Sweden, and the USA.

The explanations are hard to argue with and have a solid academic pedigree, so if you use this book as a reference/introduction, it will not steer you wrong. I found nothing to criticize, and in fact, most of the subject matter is extremely well-trod. Grossman takes hardly any controversial stands, let alone surprising ones, and you can be forgiven for finding it a bit boring.

A few petty complaints: the book is entitled, "Unsettled account," which implies that eventually Grossman is going to reveal something disturbing, or else that the process has been interrupted before reaching closure (as in the legal sense of a debt left unpaid by the death of a contracting party). How is the existing financial system unsettled? Is it unsettling? Or is there some major transaction that needs to take place, which hasn't? Grossman's discussions of issues related to banking are really cursory, to the point that everything seems very much settled in the financial sector (and that problems arise from outside).

Another complaint is the omission of detailed information on more recent developments, including the shadow banking system, disintermediation, and so on.
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