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The Power of Gold

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The Power of Gold

The History of an Obsession


15 min read
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What's inside?

Men die for it, wars have been fought for it, countries rise and fall for it — what is the mystical and monetary lure of gold?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Background
  • Engaging


Peter L. Bernstein’s history of gold is about much more than just the lure of precious metal - it’s about man’s relationship with wealth, his desire for prosperity and his lust for power. The story he tells presents an unflattering portrait of the human character. The book demonstrates how thirst for gold’s twin uses - adornment and currency - has driven humankind to countless atrocities. This volume is so elegantly written that it deserves its own gold-leaf pages. Bernstein traces the transformation of gold into money, beginning at the dawn of historic time and ending by asking if gold will ever again recover its status as the standard for establishing the value of money. getAbstract highly recommends this fine book for anyone fascinated by all that glitters, and for students of economic history as well.


AU The chemical symbol for gold derives from the word aurora, which means, "shining dawn." Gold’s light has illuminated the human race’s most ambitious and foolish endeavors. The adage of the wealthy man who responded to the call to abandon ship by strapping a large bag of gold to his waist and jumping overboard (thus, promptly sinking to the ocean’s depths) illustrates the open question of whether men possess gold or gold possesses men.

King Ptolemy II of Egypt ordered sculptors to create a 180-foot high golden phallus that preceded processions in his court. Perseus searched for the Golden Fleece. The Biblical Jews danced around the golden calf after they fled Egypt. Pizarro was surrounded by the gold of the New World when his henchmen murdered him. Sutter touched off the California gold rush in search of it, and modern leaders - such as Charles deGaulle - deluded themselves that gold-based economies would work better. Nations have razed the earth and attacked friendly neighbors to control the element AU.

"Oh, most excellent gold!" said Columbus during his first trip to America. "Who has gold has a treasure that even helps souls to paradise." As with Columbus, over ...

About the Author

Peter L. Bernstein  of New York City has written seven economics and finance books, including Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk and Capital Ideas and The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street. He is president of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., a firm that provides economic consulting to institutional investors.

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