- Series: The Princeton Economic History of the Western World (Book 33)
- Hardcover: 408 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (June 27, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691139059
- ISBN-13: 978-0691139050
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,946,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800 (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) Hardcover – June 27, 2010
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"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
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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. For someone interested in the banking system, some explanation of these topics is certainly expected. Besides the vexing lack of information on latter varieties of financial instruments, the narrow geographic focus is disappointing. What about Japan? What about the Asian Currency Crisis of 1997, or the debt crisis of the early 1980s? These get a line or two, but they deserve more.
(1) Mergers have for many years been the preferred form of rescue strategy by governments and bank managers themselves. Usually the merger of a weak with a weaker bank actually creates a bank in relatively better shape, since capital adequacy requirements are lower for big banks than small ones. One downside is that the merged bank still has to use retained earnings to restore its capital base, and over time the number of banks will tend to shrink.
(2) "Bretton Woods" refers to a meeting of financial leaders at the Mount Washington Hotel, near Carroll, New Hampshire (United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, July 1944). The meeting established an international arrangement of currency pegs that became fully operational in 1958. This arrangement collapsed in 1971, although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank [Group] founded there survive to the present day. For various reasons, the BW system has a favorable reputation despite the inevitability of its quick demise (Triffin Dilemma).
The trend toward looser regulation of financial markets seems to have been driven in part by the changing nature of the world's financial system, rather than by politics, and that change was stimulated by the new opportunities for foreign exchange arbitrage.