Cover to cover

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

BY RAY PERMAN BIR­LINN LTD £25.00

★★★★

In truth, I’ve never pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered the his­tory be­hind money; my main fo­cus tends to be on how to make more of the stuff. With this in mind I was sur­prised by how quickly I was drawn into the story of Ed­in­burgh’s jour­ney of wealth. Book­ended by the two big­gest fi­nan­cial catas­tro­phes of our time – The Darien dis­as­ter of 1700 and the crash of 2008 – Perman paints a fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of the pur­suit of money, power and the ‘heroes and vil­lains’ who or­ches­trated it all.

The book could def­i­nitely stand to in­cor­po­rate more im­ages, not least to break up the text on what is a lenghty and com­plex nar­ra­tive, but par­tic­u­larly to give a clearer idea of how Ed­in­burgh changed over the cen­turies and the way in which the grow­ing wealth and progress shaped the cap­i­tal and its in­hab­i­tants. One par­tic­u­larly well-known name from Ed­in­burgh’s his­tory is Henry Dun­das who be­came one of the most dom­i­nant fig­ures in Scot­tish pol­i­tics dur­ing the 1700s. What many peo­ple might not know is that there was an­other Dun­das – Sir Lawrence – with whom Henry staged a bit­ter ri­valry. Their story demon­strates how the po­lit­i­cal gains and losses across the coun­try dur­ing this pe­riod rested heav­ily on the fi­nan­cial might and in­flu­ence of a mere hand­ful of men.

An­other key player Perman con­sid­ers is the poet and nov­el­ist Sir Wal­ter Scott. Scott’s pen­chant for ex­trav­a­gance drew him to spend be­yond his means, and de­spite be­ing able to bor­row vast amounts of money be­cause of his con­sid­er­able so­cial stand­ing, he fell into fi­nan­cial ruin be­fore even­tu­ally writ­ing him­self out of it. For any­one in­ter­ested in dis­cov­er­ing more about Ed­in­burgh’s jour­ney to be­come one of the UK’s largest fi­nan­cial cen­tres, sec­ond only to Lon­don, this is a worth­while read. Through­out th­ese 300 years the power of the banks has waned but the al­lure and power of money has not.

Po­lit­i­cal gains and losses rested heav­ily on the fi­nan­cial might of a hand­ful of men

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