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The definitive biography of a banker, essayist and editor of the Economist, by an acclaimed financial historian.
During the upheavals of 2007–9, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, had the name of a Victorian icon on the tip of his tongue: Walter Bagehot. Banker, man of letters, inventor of the Treasury bill and author of Lombard Street, Bagehot prescribed the doctrines that—decades later—inspired the radical responses to the world’s worst financial crises.
In James Grant’s colourful and groundbreaking biography, Bagehot appears as both an ornament to his own age and a muse to our own. Brilliant and precocious, he was influential in political circles, making high-profile friends, including William Gladstone—and enemies in Lord Overstone and Benjamin Disraeli. As an essayist on wide-ranging topics, he won the admiration of Matthew Arnold and Woodrow Wilson. He was also a misogynist, and while he opposed slavery, he misjudged Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. As editor of the Economist, he offered astute commentary on the financial issues of his day and his name lives on in an eponymous weekly column.
“The most perceptive and brilliant economic and political writer of his time deserves a biographer of equal literary merit. In James Grant, Walter Bagehot has found him.” — Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England and author of The End of Alchemy
“James Grant [is] one of the most influential contemporary commentators on Wall Street... in Grant’s hands, Bagehot’s life and career provide a superb prism through which to observe the extraordinary revolution in the British economy during the 19th century.” — Simon Nixon, The Times
“The book makes a convincing case that Bagehot deserves credit for being a progenitor of a wider political tradition...” — Moneyweek
“A gem of a book: entertaining, wry, and gloriously eccentric.” — Sebastian Mallaby, Foreign Affairs
“... excellent... biography” — Benjamin Schwarz, The International New York Times
“... engaging new biography of Bagehot... In this very enjoyable book, Grant demonstrates that he has the measure of a fascinating—and great—Victorian. ” — Financial Times
“... his [James Grant's] book is excellent—built on a lot of study (including time in the archives) and written in a gripping style. Mr Grant is at his best when writing about Bagehot’s financial journalism and indeed his career as a banker. His accounts of the collapse of Overend Gurney, supposedly the Rock of Gibraltar of Victorian finance, and of “Lombard Street”, Bagehot’s book about that debacle, are exemplary.” — The Economist