Having finished Lords of Finance over the holidays, I conclude that it is an excellent introduction to the role of reparations and war debts in the problems of the 1920s and 30s. While I have always been told that reparations played a crucial role in the unravelling of Europe’s economies and polities, because these are problems of macroeconomic payment flows, the level of abstraction at which they are usually discussed has always left me in a state of incomprehension muddled with disbelief.
That Ahamed manages to present the problems of reparations in a down to earth manner that simply makes sense is an achievement in itself.
In short, despite its faults I would recommend Lords of Finance to students of the Depression because it presents the big picture of the interrelated macroeconomies with the full gamut of complex payments issues in a very accessible manner and thus can be used as a framework in which to place the pieces of a more careful study of the period.
In one sentence: First read Lords of Finance; then you’ll be ready to absorb the overwhelming detail of Eichengreen’s Golden Fetters.