Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal
Gold remains a constant in a sea of global economic change--and has mirrored the most dramatic changes in human development. Matthew Hart's Gold begins deep below the surface of the African veld, where impoverished men mine the metal to feed the insatiable demands of those who covet it. From there, the story travels back to Asia Minor in 635 B.C. and 16th-century Peru, where bright and beautiful accessories created as religious relics honoring kings and gods became emblems of social status and possessions of the commercially elite. Spanish conquistadors plundered the seemingly endless supplies of Incan gold, creating the West's first gold rush.
With the influx of so much gold onto the European continent, it soon replaced other metals as the backing for paper money and earned a reputation as the "god of fiscal rectitude." When the next gold rush started at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848, it fueled another long round of plunder and speculative runs that threatened to upend global financial security.
Hart treats each boom, panic and shock as an intrigue more befitting an espionage or mystery novel than economic or social history. Yet it is his riveting interviews with the men and investment companies who continue to dig into the earth to meet today's speculative gold scramble that provide the most insight into how this precious metal, a historical symbol of religious reverence, has marred the human spirit over the centuries. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant