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Fiat Money Inflation in France   By: (1832-1918)

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Andrew Dickson White's Fiat Money Inflation in France provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of the historic hyperinflation that occurred during the French Revolution. Through meticulous research and insightful analysis, White offers readers an engaging account of this economic catastrophe and its lasting impact on the nation.

One of the book's greatest strengths lies in White's ability to contextualize the events leading up to the hyperinflationary crisis. He traces the origins of this monetary disaster to the ill-conceived revolutionary policies, such as the printing of paper money known as assignats. White skillfully describes how these policies, initially intended to address the financial difficulties faced by the post-revolutionary French government, ultimately led to an unstoppable spiral of hyperinflation.

White's attention to detail is remarkable, as he delves into the mechanics of the hyperinflationary process itself. He explains how the overprinting of assignats led to a rapid devaluation of the currency, with citizens resorting to bartering goods instead. The subsequent loss of wealth and economic chaos that ensued is vividly portrayed, providing readers with a stark realization of the devastating consequences of such monetary mismanagement.

Throughout the book, White draws insightful parallels between the French hyperinflation and similar economic crises that have occurred throughout history. He offers valuable lessons from France's experience, cautioning against the dangers of unchecked inflation and highlighting the importance of sound monetary policies.

However, one slight drawback of the book is its occasional dryness in certain sections where White dives deep into statistical data and monetary theories. While these parts might be less accessible to readers without an economics background, they are nonetheless crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

Overall, Fiat Money Inflation in France is an enlightening and thought-provoking read that sheds light on a lesser-known but significant episode in economic history. Andrew Dickson White's meticulous research, insightful analysis, and the relevance of the French hyperinflation to contemporary economic challenges make this book a valuable resource for economists, historians, and anyone interested in understanding the perils of monetary mismanagement.

First Page:


How It Came, What It Brought, and How It Ended

by Andrew Dickson White, LL.D., Ph.D., D.C.L.

Late President and Professor of History at Cornell University; Sometime United States Minister to Russia and Ambassador to Germany; Author of "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology," etc.


As far back as just before our Civil War I made, in France and elsewhere, a large collection of documents which had appeared during the French Revolution, including newspapers, reports, speeches, pamphlets, illustrative material of every sort, and, especially, specimens of nearly all the Revolutionary issues of paper money, from notes of ten thousand livres to those of one sou .

Upon this material, mainly, was based a course of lectures then given to my students, first at the University of Michigan and later at Cornell University, and among these lectures, one on "Paper Money Inflation in France."

This was given simply because it showed one important line of facts in that great struggle; and I recall, as if it were yesterday, my feeling of regret at being obliged to bestow so much care and labor upon a subject to all appearance so utterly devoid of practical value. I am sure that it never occurred, either to my Michigan students or to myself, that it could ever have any bearing on our own country... Continue reading book >>

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