You came to tell us that the great cities are in favour of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile plains. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy out farms and the grass will grow in the city…You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold… William Jennings Bryan


The gold standard at the turn of the twentieth century : rising powers, global money, and the age of Empire Steven Bryan New York : Columbia University Press, c 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. viii, 273 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Print shows a bust portrait of William Jennings Bryan and portraits of his family, also illustrations, at the bottom, of a farmer and a blacksmith; includes the complete text of the "Cross of Gold", the speech that helped Bryan win the Democratic Party nomination for president, with 16 large silver dollars and one small gold dollar framing the speech at the top right and left corners.

Print shows a bust portrait of William Jennings Bryan and portraits of his family, also illustrations, at the bottom, of a farmer and a blacksmith; includes the complete text of the “Cross of Gold”, the speech that helped Bryan win the Democratic Party nomination for president, with 16 large silver dollars and one small gold dollar framing the speech at the top right and left corners.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the world was ready to adopt the gold standard out of concerns of national power, prestige, and anti-English competition. Yet although the gold standard allowed countries to enact a virtual single world currency, the years before World War I were not a time of unfettered liberal economics and one-world, one-market harmony. Outside of Europe, the gold standard became a tool for nationalists and protectionists primarily interested in growing domestic industry and imperial expansion.

This overlooked trend, reassessed in Bryan’s history, contradicts our conception of the gold standard as a British-based system infused with English ideas, interests, and institutions. In countries like Japan and Argentina, where nationalist concerns focused on infant-industry protection and the growth of military power, the gold standard enabled the expansion of trade and the goals of the age: industry and empire.

Bryan argues that these countries looked less to Britain and more to North America and the rest of Europe for ideological models. Not only does this history challenge our notions of the prewar period, but it also reorients our understanding of the history that followed. Policymakers of the 1920s latched onto the idea that global prosperity before World War I was the result of a system dominated by English liberalism. Their attempt to reproduce this triumph helped bring about the global downturn, the Great Depression, and the collapse of the interwar world.

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