A Styrofoam bull at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, September 2008.
Alex Grimm / Reuters

“September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression.” Ben Bernanke, then the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, made this remarkable claim in November 2009, just one year after the meltdown. Looking back today, a decade after the crisis, there is every reason to agree with Bernanke’s assessment: 2008 should serve as a warning of the scale and speed with which global financial crises can unfold in the twenty-first century. 

The basic story of the financial crisis is familiar enough. The trouble began in 2007 with a downturn in U.S. and European real estate markets; as housing prices plunged from California to Ireland, homeowners fell behind on their mortgage payments, and lenders soon began to feel the heat. Thanks to the deep integration of global banking, securities, and funding markets, the contagion quickly spread to major financial institutions around the world. By

To read the full article

  • ADAM TOOZE is Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History at Columbia University, where he directs the European Institute, and the author of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World
  • More By Adam Tooze