Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Friday, December 24, 2010

On reading Adam Fergusson's "When Money Dies", an account of the German hyperinflation of 1923: Part 1

I am obliged to "Jesse" for publishing via Scribd the text of this book, which first appeared in 1975 and has just been reprinted. As the printed version is 288 pages in length and many readers are pressed for time, I shall attempt a hurried and necessarily partial and imperfect summary of some of the main points:

Chapter One
Paper currency became legal tender in Germany in 1910. When the Great War broke out, the right to exchange Reichsmark notes for gold was suspended. From 1915-1917, the financing of the war was through borrowing, not taxation.

The truth of economic affairs was hidden from the people: the stock markets were closed and foreign exchange rates not published. By the end of the war, standards of living had halved, but many had attributed price rises to shortages cause by war and profiteering.


There were factors other than monetary in the multiple crises that hit the country. After the war, stability was undermined by a militaristic Right that refused to accept responsibility for defeat, and a revolutionary Left inspired and sponsored by the recent events in Russia. A coalition government was formed, with overwhelming popular support, to resist both extremes.


Germany's postwar economy was hit by the loss of her African colonies plus c. 14% of her prewar sovereign territory and the other reparations and unfair trade terms demanded by vengeful victors. Economically crippled, and facing the consequences of 1.6 million dead and 3.5 million other casualties, Germany also had to cope with over 250,000 newly-unemployed soldiers.

Pre-1914, a British pound was worth 20 marks; by December 1918, it was worth 43 marks; by December 1919, 185 marks.


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