Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

Charles P. Kindleberger

Book cover

This is a classic book in the financial world, but I was somewhat disappointed with it. Kindleberger uses Hyman Minsky’s “anatomy” of financial crises to discuss commonalities between a number of different financial panics from different countries at different times in history. I had been hoping for more of a straightforward narrative description of each crisis, many of which, after all, occurred in unfamiliar settings. But in fact, Kindleberger uses the generic “crisis anatomy” as the structure of the book, touching on each episode only as it relates to a given part of the anatomy. This can be disorienting for the reader who is not already familiar with the episodes, which description I imagine fits virtually all readers.

For those interested in the generic anatomy of crises, I think it’s better to read Minsky himself, who is pretty accessible. For those looking for detailed descriptions of specific crises, something like Bagehot’s “Lombard Street” is more entertaining. This book ends up being neither here nor there.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars