Buying securities ranging from Russian railways to Malaysian rubber companies, Britain in 1913 was the money capital of the world,
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People worried that the financial nouveaux riches in London were having too much influence on the nation as a whole, and that perhaps the playing field was not altogether level.
The Marconi scandal involved high-level government officials, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George and Attorney General Rufus Isaacs, whose brother worked for the company planning a chain of wireless stations across the world.
Both had bought shares at an early stage and a favorable price, though they denied trading on insider information. Winston Churchill defended his fellow liberals during the parliamentary inquiry, calling the charges “unsupported tittle tattle.” The final report was split along party lines.
While the men survived professionally, the scandal imbued the City with the taint of corruption.
I spoke with Charles Emmerson, author of “1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War,” on the following topics:
1. Peace and Prosperity.
2. War Is for Imbeciles.
3. Global Financial Network.
4. London’s Clout.
5. Berlin’s Modernity.
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Jeremy Gerard on theater.