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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