The Downfall of Money


One hundred years ago, many economic theorists believed — just as they did at the beginning of the twenty-first century — that the world had reached a state of economic perfection, a never-before-seen condition of beneficial human interdependence that would lead to universal growth and prosperity. And yet, after the disaster of defeat in the First World War, the early years of the Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed the most complete and terrifying unravelling of a major country's financial system to have occurred in modern times.

The Downfall of Money tells the dramatic story of the hyperinflation that saw the once-solid Gold Mark, worth 4.2 to the dollar in 1914, collapsing on the foreign exchange markets and trading at over 4 trillion to the dollar by the autumn of 1923. By then, one pound of bread cost 3 billion marks, one pound of meat 36 billion and one glass of beer 4 billion. German banks printed more and more money until children were given great wads of worthless banknotes instead of building blocks to plays with.

Frederick Taylor reveals the real causes of the crisis, what the collapse meant to ordinary people and how it affected their lives, and also traces its connection to Germany's subsequent catastrophic political events. By drawing on a wide range of sources and making sense of the vast amount of specialist research that has become available in recent decades, he provides a clear-eyed and timely look at this chilling period in history which speaks across the years to our own time.

Reviews for The Downfall of Money

“Germans are terrified of inflation … By the end of the Downfall of Money it is clear why these fears are so deeply embedded.”

The Economist

“Excellent … By skilfully weaving together economic history with political narrative and drawing on sources from everyday life as well as the inner cabinet of diplomacy, Taylor tells the story of the Weimar inflation as the life-and-death struggle of the first German democracy.” 

Adam Tooze, Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing … Embellished with much contemporary detail painstakingly trawled from newspapers, diaries and books.”

The Literary Review

“He uses reportage well .. and has a deft touch with personal anecdotes.”

The Times