I actually don’t care what you think of economic history, JK Galbraith’s masterpiece is none of the things that sprung to mind, (unless you’re creepy and actually like economic history). The Great Crash is as much a work that muses on the folly of humanity as an exploration of the causes of the 1929 crash - and hell, that’s why I got into history. I’d argue that if there’s one book everyone should read, it might well be Galbraith’s The Great Crash, 1929.
Galbraith of course knew that the market would crash again - he once joked that writing The Great Crash was the best thing he ever did, because every time the stock market wobbled, another run of his book would sell out. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say its the wittiest piece of history that has been written in the twentieth century. I think somewhere Galbraith says that economic history is great because you get all of the fallibility and folly of men with none of the bloodshed. There are some fantastic passages in The Great Crash, and I can’t reccomend highly enough the only book I know that combines serious history and black comedy. Perhaps that’s the most damning comment on 1929 - it never was tragedy, merely farce.
Two men jumped hand-in-hand from a high window in the Ritz. They had a joint account.
Galbraith died in 2006, but I feel certain that had he lived until 2008 he would have been disgusted and amused to see a repeat of 1929 - though causally they’re not at all comparable, I think that actually a lot of Galbraith’s analysis - as I said - goes further than analysing the specific situation in 1929, and addresses the financial system as a whole, a system that seemingly hasn’t changed much. Of 1929 he wrote that:
The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.