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Capsule Review

Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses—and Misuses—of History

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Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History
Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History
By Barry Eichengreen
Oxford University Press, 2015, 520 pp. $29.95 Purchase

One has to go back to 1931 to find a period when the global economy experienced as much turmoil in financial markets as it did in 2008. This fine booka fascinating read for the historically-minded—reviews in detail the story of the Great Depression and its remarkable parallels with the crises of the last decade. Fortunately, there were also significant differences, mainly in monetary and fiscal policy, that prevented 2010 from becoming another catastrophic 1933. Policymakers, especially U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, drew on the lessons of earlier disasters to frame their policy responses. Eichengreen ingeniously interweaves the two episodes, rather than treating them separately, making manifest the similarities and differences both in market developments and in official reactions. Unlike many treatments of the earlier period, the book covers what happened in Europe as well as what happened in the United States. 

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