The Great Crash 1929

Rampant speculation. Record trading volumes. Assets bought not because of their value but because the buyer believes he can sell them for more in a day or two, or an hour or two. Welcome to the late 1920s. There are obvious and absolute parallels to the great bull market of the late 1990s, writes Galbraith in a new introduction dated 1997. Of course, Galbraith notes, … [ Read more ]

Strategy: A History

In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

The range of Freedman’s narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles … [ Read more ]

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

In this, the first hard-hitting examination of ExxonMobil—the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States—Steve Coll reveals the true extent of its power. Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of … [ Read more ]

Henry Ford

Most great figures in American history reveal great contradictions, and Henry Ford is no exception. He championed his workers, offering unprecedented wages, yet crushed their attempts to organize. Virulently anti-Semitic, he never employed fewer than 3,000 Jews. An outspoken pacifist, he made millions producing war materials. He urbanized the modern world, and then tried to drag it back into a romanticized rural past he’d helped … [ Read more ]

Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob

Today, consumer credit, employee stock options, and citizen investment in the stock market are taken for granted–fundamental facts of American economic life. But few people realize that they were first widely promoted by John Jakob Raskob (1879-1950), the innovative financier and self-made businessman who built the Empire State building, made millions for DuPont and General Motors, and helped shape the contours of modern capitalism.

David Farber’s … [ Read more ]

The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street

The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent Great Recession demolished many cherished beliefs—most significantly, the theory that financial markets always get things right. Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market explains where that idea came from, and where it went wrong. As much an intellectual whodunit as a cultural history of the perils and possibilities of risk, it also brings to life the people … [ Read more ]

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

When he died, Vanderbilt was probably the richest man in the U.S., with a fortune that represented US$1 out of every $20 in circulation in the country, including cash and demand deposits (to put that in perspective, Bill Gates’s wealth in 2008 represented $1 out of every $138). But Stiles has much more in mind in this weighty tome than simply documenting the rise of … [ Read more ]

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It

In a fast-moving narrative, Wall Street Journal reporter Patterson explores the coterie of mathematicians behind the Wall Street crash of 2008. The story’s stars are “an unusual breed of investors” called quants, who “used brain-twisting math and super-powered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market.” Following the first quant, Beat the Market author Ed Thorp, from his graduate school days in … [ Read more ]

The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos

The Puritan Gift traces the origins and the characteristics of American managerial culture which, in the course of three centuries, would turn a group of small colonies into the greatest economic and political power on earth. It was the Protestant ethic whose characteristics–thrift, a respect for enquiry, individualism tempered by a need to cooperate, success as a measure of divine approval–helped to create the conditions … [ Read more ]

Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

The latest from Renehan, author most recently of a much-praised biography of another titan of 19th-century business, Jay Gould, is a thorough look at Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877), who rose from nothing to amass one of the great fortunes in American history (more than $158 billion in 2005 dollars) in the burgeoning steamship and railroad industries. A brilliant, vicious businessman with little education, manners or patience … [ Read more ]

In the Market: The Illustrated History of the Financial Markets

The ever-popular coffee-table book, filled with striking pictures or slick graphics, tends to exalt travel or cooking. But Finch, the best-selling author of The Art of Walt Disney and Highways to Heaven, tries for something different. He takes on the history of humankind as seen through the dealings of people in different marketplaces, whether it is the Athenian “agora” or the New York Stock Exchange. … [ Read more ]

Hell’s Cartel: IG Farben and the Making of Hitler’s War Machine

British journalist Jeffreys (Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug) presents a compelling account of the comprehensive collaboration of Germany’s major chemical conglomerate with Adolf Hitler’s genocidal dictatorship. The fourth largest industrial concern in the world, IG Farben was a key element of German foreign policy. Its employees were well treated. Its scientists won Nobel prizes. Its administrators created an international network controlling the … [ Read more ]

The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management

Kleiner’s freewheeling portrait gallery focuses on corporate mavericks of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s who pioneered self-managing work teams, responsiveness to customers, grassroots organizing and other ways to imbue corporations with a sense of the value of human relationships. Starting with British management scientist Eric Trist, whose experiments in industrial democracy in the 1940s laid the groundwork for U.S. managerial innovations of the 1980s, Kleiner … [ Read more ]

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

With his latest book, historian Niall Ferguson adeptly charts the role of money throughout the history of man as well as the role of man in the history of money. From the rise of money and credit to the bond and stock markets, and the rise of insurance and real estate markets to, more recently, international finance, Ferguson demonstrates that financial knowledge is, in many … [ Read more ]

The Principles of Scientific Management

The basis of modern organization and decision theory, this influential essay has motivated administrators and students of managerial technique for more than 80 years. The author discusses eliminating inefficiency through a system based on principles applicable to individual and collective activities. A ground-breaking, and still-inspiring work.

Andrew Carnegie

In the pantheon of the industrial giants who dominated late-nineteenth-century American capitalism, Andrew Carnegie has consistently stood out as the most fascinating and enigmatic character. Celebrated as the creator of the modern steel industry, he earned equal renown for the disbursement of his vast fortune to numerous philanthropic causes. As opposed to the cold, austere image of a Rockefeller, Carnegie seemed to radiate genuine warmth … [ Read more ]

Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction

In this biography, Pulitzer Prize winner McCraw neatly divides his emphasis between Schumpeter’s professional and personal life. He portrays his subject as a somewhat self-absorbed insatiable scholar not entirely comfortable with his contemporaries, which might explain marriages and affairs with much older and younger women, as well as his affinity with students and often-strained relations with colleagues of his own generation. McGraw lucidly addresses Schumpeter’s … [ Read more ]

Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built

Business historian Tedlow (Harvard Business Sch.) presents seven magnates in a historical context that reflects the growth of the United States as an economic power from the mid-1800s to the latter part of the 20th century. Presenting biographical essays divided chronologically into three sections, he first discusses Andrew Carnegie (U.S. Steel), George Eastman (Kodak), and Henry Ford (automobiles) and their contributions to the emergence of … [ Read more ]

When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America’s Monetary Supremacy

Professor, author and prominent economic advisor Silber chronicles an era when the U.S.’s reliance on the gold standard was leading it head-on into its first major financial crisis. The outbreak of WWI in 1914 yielded the biggest gold outflow in a generation, jeopardizing America’s reputation with creditor nations and sending the world market value of the dollar into a tailspin. Enter Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, … [ Read more ]

Pop!: Why Bubbles Are Great For The Economy

Three cheers for “exuberant, foolish, mad overinvestment!” Slate columnist Gross takes a counterintuitive look at economic bubbles-those once-in-a-generation crazes that everyone knows can’t last, and don’t. With each one, we lament having gotten in too late, and then not having gotten out soon enough, and finally shake our heads at the inevitable bankruptcies and lost jobs and general financial wreckage. The pattern is all too … [ Read more ]