Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian (Hardcover)

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The definitive biography of one of the most brilliant and influential financial minds—banker, essayist, and editor of the Economist.

During the upheavals of 2007–09, the 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, the still-canonical guide to stopping a run on the banks, Bagehot prescribed the doctrines that—decades later—inspired the radical responses to the world’s worst financial crises.

Born in the small market town of Langport, just after the Panic of 1825 swept across England, Bagehot followed in his father’s footsteps and took a position at the local family bank—but his influence on financial matters would soon spread far beyond the county of Somerset. Persuasive and precocious, he came to hold sway in political circles, making high-profile friends, including William Gladstone—and enemies, such as Lord Overstone and Benjamin Disraeli. As a prolific essayist on wide-ranging topics, Bagehot won the admiration of Matthew Arnold and Woodrow Wilson, and delighted in paradox. 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. He has been called "the Greatest Victorian."

In James Grant’s colorful and groundbreaking biography, Bagehot appears as both an ornament to his own age and a muse to our own. Drawing on a wealth of historical documents, correspondence, and publications, Grant paints a vivid portrait of the banker and his world.

About the Author

James Grant founded Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, a financial markets journal, and authored Bagehot and The Forgotten Depression, which won the Hayek Prize. His writing has appeared in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Praise For…

Bagehot was a financial journalist with a love of English literature and a facility for clear and cogent prose. So is Mr. Grant....Bagehot is a terrific and efficient survey of the political and economic disputations of mid-Victorian England and a fine narrative of the life of the era’s most brilliant essayist.

— Barton Swaim - Wall Street Journal

Very enjoyable...Grant demonstrates that he has the measure of a fascinating—and great—Victorian.
— John Plender - Financial Times

A gem of a book: entertaining, wry, and gloriously eccentric.
— Sebastian Mallaby - Foreign Affairs

— John Lanchester - The New Yorker

Excellent—built on a lot of study...and written in a gripping style.
— The Economist

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 in the 19th century.
— Simon Nixon - The Times (London)

— Benjamin Schwarz - The New York Times Book Review

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

Thoughtful, evenhanded, and frequently witty....It is a measure of Grant’s talent as a biographer that Bagehot appears as scintillating and charismatic as he is reputed to have been in life. Even readers not normally drawn to economic subjects will find themselves enjoying this lively and erudite biography and guide to financial Victoriana.
— Publishers Weekly

Essential for readers with an interest in the history of economics and, more important, how to write about and read the dismal science.
— Kirkus
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393609196
ISBN-10: 0393609197
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 23rd, 2019
Pages: 368
Language: English