Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"All That Glittered"

New from Oxford University Press: All That Glittered: Britain's Most Precious Metal from Adam Smith to the Gold Rush by Timothy Alborn.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the century after 1750, Great Britain absorbed much of the world's supply of gold into its pockets, cupboards, and coffers when it became the only major country to adopt the gold standard as the sole basis of its currency. Over the same period, the nation's emergence was marked by a powerful combination of Protestantism, commerce, and military might, alongside preservation of its older social hierarchy.

In this rich and broad-ranging work, Timothy Alborn argues for a close connection between gold and Britain's national identity. Beginning with Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which validated Britain's position as an economic powerhouse, and running through the mid-nineteenth century gold rushes in California and Australia, Alborn draws on contemporary descriptions of gold's value to highlight its role in financial, political, and cultural realms. He begins by narrating British interests in gold mining globally to enable the smooth operation of the gold standard. In addition to explaining the metal's function in finance, he explores its uses in war expenditure, foreign trade, religious observance, and ornamentation at home and abroad. Britons criticized foreign cultures for their wasteful and inappropriate uses of gold, even as it became a prominent symbol of status in more traditional features of British society, including its royal family, aristocracy, and military. Although Britain had been ambivalent in its embrace of gold, ultimately it enabled the nation to become the world's most modern economy and to extend its imperial reach around the globe.

All That Glittered tells the story of gold as both a marker of value and a valuable commodity, while providing a new window onto Britain's ascendance after the 1750s.
--Marshal Zeringue