The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession


"The need for realism in reform of its monetary system is what makes Bernstein's story of the Power of Gold so timely. It is a compelling reminder that maintaining a fixed price for gold and fixed exchange rates were difficult even in a simpler financial environment....Peter Bernstein was reluctant to project the story of gold into the future. But to me his message was clear. Yes, gold will be with us, valued not only for its intrinsic qualities but as a last refuge and store of value in turbulent times. But its days as money, as a means of payment and a fixed unit of account are gone."
-- From the New Foreword by Paul Volcker

This bestselling book reveals a record of human nature in the ubiquity of gold with a new foreword by Paul Volcker

In this exciting book, the late Peter L. Bernstein tells the story of history's most coveted, celebrated, and inglorious asset: gold. From the ancient fascinations of Moses and Midas through the modern convulsions caused by the gold standard and its aftermath, gold has led many of its most eager and proud possessors to a bad end. And while the same cycle of obsession and desperation may reverberate in today's fast-moving, electronically-driven markets, the role of gold in shaping human history is the striking feature of this tumultuous tale. Such is the power of gold.

Whether it is Egyptian pharaohs with depraved tastes, the luxury-mad survivors of the Black Death, the Chinese inventor of paper money, the pirates on the Spanish Main, or the hardnosed believers in the international gold standard, gold has been the supreme possession. It has been an icon for greed and an emblem of rectitude, as well as a vehicle for vanity and a badge of power that has shaped the destiny of humanity through the ages.

  • Discusses the beginnings of gold as something with magical, religious, and artistic qualities and follows its trail as we progress to the invention of coinage, the transformation of gold into money, and the gold standard
  • Other bestselling books by the late Peter Bernstein: Against the Gods, Capital Ideas, and Capital Ideas Evolving
  • Contemplates gold from the diverse perspectives of monarchs and moneyers, potentates and politicians, men of legendary wealth and others of more plebeian beginnings

Far more than a tale of romantic myths, daring explorations, and the history of money and power struggles, The Power of Gold suggests that the true significance of this infamous element may lie in the timeless passions it continues to evoke, and what this reveals about ourselves.


What could be timelier than a new release of Peter Bernstein’s authoritative book The Power of Gold? Bernstein wrote at the turn of the century—only a decade ago, but what a contrast from today in the world of business and finance. Economic growth in the economically developed world had been sustained for a decade. Reasonable price stability had been achieved. Huge gains in the world’s stock markets exceeded past experience.

Almost everywhere, central bankers were esteemed and trusted. Central bank independence came to be taken as the indispensable guarantor of stability. the mood was epitomized by the creation of a brandnew central bank to manage the European common currency, itself a key initiative toward closer European union. With its independence from the sovereign states of the “Eurozone” embodied in a solemn treaty, the new central bank reached a virtually unprecedented state, freed of direct accountability to a political government.

For decades, no central bank or government had maintained convertibility of its currencies into gold. For the most part, major currencies were “floated” in exchange markets. in one of Bernstein’s apt phrases, gold had been “emasculated.” With its enduring luster, its malleability, its resistance to wear and corrosion, it could remain useful for adornment and jewelry and to a limited exchange as a tiny component of some electronic devices. Yet it had been shorn of monetary significance. in the 1990s, central banks, the custodians of national financial . . .

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