For finance wonks, a good-as-gold tome as imposing as the institution it covers—and with every promise of enduring...

TILL TIME'S LAST SAND

A HISTORY OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND 1694-2013

Social historian Kynaston (Modernity Britain: 1957-1962, 2014, etc.) moves into fiscal realms with this overstuffed history of one of the world’s most important financial institutions.

The Bank of England, writes the author, was chartered on June 21, 1694, with then-staggering starting financing of 300,000 pounds, some of it provided by King William and Queen Mary. Democratically, Kynaston notes, even the royals were limited to the top investment of 10,000 pounds apiece; other investors were businessmen, among them a clockmaker and an apothecary. The bank was founded by three visionaries, one of them “a projector,” a speculator more interested in his own profit than in the success of the enterprise as a whole but still far-seeing enough to help put together a bank of credit of a kind more ambitious than any London had seen before—and, by extension, more ambitious than any in the world at the time. Other nations would develop similar institutions, which evolved into central banks. In closing his long history, the author notes that the very idea of a central bank is now under siege and that “their extinction cannot be ruled out,” while holding out the prospect that somehow the Bank of England will evolve to meet conditions as it has in the past. Though with no shortage of discussion of financial instruments, fiscal policy, and economic crises and turning points, Kynaston’s account is full of people as well—e.g., John Horsley Palmer, who was adamant in requiring that the bank actually be able to cover its loans with gold holdings, and Thomas Catto, who broke with John Maynard Keynes at just about the time the bank was nationalized (Catto never used that term, saying, “ ‘Public ownership’ sounds so much better”). Kynaston closes at the time the bank was emerging from the devastating financial crisis of a decade ago, so the effects of Brexit will have to await a revised edition.

For finance wonks, a good-as-gold tome as imposing as the institution it covers—and with every promise of enduring accordingly.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4088-6856-0

Page Count: 896

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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