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The Big Mystique

William Davies: Central Banks and Banking

2 February 2017
The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath 
by Ben Bernanke.
Norton, 624 pp., £27.99, October 2015, 978 0 393 24721 3
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The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy 
by Mervyn King.
Little Brown, 448 pp., £25, March 2017, 978 0 349 14067 4
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... of the state for borrowing and printing too much of it, which causes inflation. All this is what Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England between 2003 and 2013, refers to as the ‘traditional’ theory of money. But ‘Money Creation in the Modern Economy’ explained that money can be created out of thin air, which is exactly what happens every ...

On Radio 4

Peter Campbell: ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’

18 November 2010
... too, for all I know) – to show that concentrated listening and concentrated looking interfere with one another. Is it the money the headsets bring in? Or is it part of a general tendency for every medium to insist on a presence whenever communication takes place? It’s not that the combination never works (take Don Giovanni), but listening ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown

4 January 2018
My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... in an armed robbery four years earlier. When the call to the Telegraph comes through he ends up taking it ‘in the cramped space between two carriages that were bouncing up and down as passengers squeezed by on their way to the buffet bar’. After Bradford, it’s on to Sheffield, where he performs the opening ceremonies for a new academy school and a Sure ...


David Runciman: How the coalition was formed

16 December 2010
22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... a considerably smaller share of first preferences). The three independent MPs who found themselves kingmakers all came from rural constituencies, whose electors appeared much happier with the idea of a centre-right government than a centre-left one. But that did not stop two of the three from throwing in their lot with Labour, allowing the seemingly humiliated ...

Are we having fun yet?

John Lanchester: The Biggest Scandal of All

4 July 2013
... else too. Here in the UK, feelings were nicely summed up by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which reported on 19 June that ‘the public have a sense that advantage has been taken of them, that bankers have received huge rewards, that some of those rewards have not been properly earned, and in some cases have been obtained through ...
12 December 1996
... has been largely abandoned as a medium of exchange because of hyperinflation and the collapsing banking system, and where all investment and most of management time and effort are devoted to finding and stocking goods that will be useful in barter exchange – everything from aero-engines to potatoes. But there is no ...

Let’s consider Kate

John Lanchester: Can we tame the banks?

18 July 2013
... as the overall picture of modern Britain is concerned, is the fun part. The difficult thing is looking forward and trying to work out what to do next. That’s because in their current condition our banks are an existential threat to British democracy, a more serious one than terrorism, either external or internal. As Andrew Haldane, director of stability at ...

A Company of Merchants

Jamie Martin: The Bank of England

24 January 2019
Till Time’s Last Sand: A History of the Bank of England, 1694-2013 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 879 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 1 4088 6856 0
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... and sound monetary policy are incompatible. If politicians control the money supply, the thinking goes, then every time an election comes around they will risk inflation by goosing the economy with easy money in order to buy support from the voters. Price stability requires long-term thinking; but the public wants ...

Toto the Villain

Robert Tashman

9 July 1992
The Wizard of Oz 
by Salman Rushdie.
BFI, 69 pp., £5.95, May 1992, 0 85170 300 3
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... The fear and condescension felt towards the medium by most writers do not encourage clear thinking or relaxed appreciation. There is, of course, extensive commerce between the cultures of film and the word: many successful Hollywood writers, whose lifestyles are the envy of literary people, were formerly novelists in fact or intention; many serious ...

What news?

Patrick Collinson: The Pilgrimage of Grace

1 November 2001
The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s 
by R.W. Hoyle.
Oxford, 487 pp., £30, May 2001, 9780198208747
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... royal marriage, the Princess Mary and her conservative supporters neatly sidestepped. Since the King could not be directly blamed for these upsets, those who disliked them (most people?) pointed the finger at his upstart ministers, and above all at Thomas Cromwell, whose personal role in ‘all this’ is still debated. The way in which the commotions began ...


Christopher Hitchens: Keywords

13 September 1990
... look like a retired torturer. Conducting me smoothly to my hotel (‘Are you a member of the drinking classes? I think the Armenian brandy might tickle your fancy’), he laboured to dispel the image of the unsmiling xenophobic Iraqi which the rest of Baghdad society was at such pains to reinforce. I didn’t know whether to bless or curse my luck when he ...

A Car of One’s Own

Andrew O’Hagan: Chariots of Desire

11 June 2009
... struggling along the highway towards modernity, had the easily underestimated Lada. Was making cars once an indicator of national self-sufficiency? Is it still? Rover, Morris, Austin, Triumph, Vauxhall, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Mini, Land Rover: when we hear the names of these firms, we think of the cars they made, and of cars driven by parents or ...

I met murder on the way

Colin Kidd: Castlereagh

24 May 2012
Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny 
by John Bew.
Quercus, 722 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 85738 186 6
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... the world was in existence long before the accepted date of its creation, 4004 BC. His colleague Mervyn Storey complained that the signs at the most popular tourist attraction in his North Antrim constituency, the Giant’s Causeway, misinformed the public by telling them that the rock formation was 550 million years old. Despite such stories it would be a ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise

6 June 2013
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... sometimes had toothache). Her skin continued to glow and her eye remained fierce. More striking than the amount of sleep she needed was her ability to sleep at all, given what she put herself and others through on a daily basis. She had no hobbies and no real interests outside politics, though she did occasionally indulge in bouts of housework as a way ...

Musical Beds

D.A.N. Jones

30 December 1982
On Going to Bed 
by Anthony Burgess.
Deutsch, 96 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 233 97470 9
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The End of the World News 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 398 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 09 150540 2
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This Man and Music 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 192 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 09 149610 1
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... a very happy New Year to you too, Mr Enderby! ...   We, whispering, fingering, rustling, creaking about your bedroom, are that posterity to which you hopefully addressed yourself ... Yes, here we come, Mr Enderby, the Lollocks on the locks of literature, ready to be ‘nasty together in the bed’s shadow’! The first of Anthony Burgess’s new ...

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