Millionaire: The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance

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Simon and Schuster, Feb 21, 2001 - Business & Economics - 304 pages
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On the death of France's most glorious king, Louis XIV, in 1715, few people benefited from the shift in power more than the intriguing financial genius from Edinburgh, John Law. Already notorious for killing a man in a duel and for acquiring a huge fortune from gambling, Law had proposed to the English monarch that a bank be established to issue paper money with the credit based on the value of land. But Queen Anne was not about to take advice from a gambler and felon. So, in exile in Paris, he convinced the bankrupt court of Louis XV of the value of his idea.
Law soon engineered the revival of the French economy and found himself one of the most powerful men in Europe. In August 1717, he founded the Mississippi Company, and the Court granted him the right to trade in France's vast territory in America. The shareholders in his new trading company made such enormous profits that the term "millionaire" was coined to describe them. Paris was soon in a frenzy of speculation, conspiracies, and insatiable consumption. Before this first boom-and-bust cycle was complete, markets throughout Europe crashed, the mob began calling for Law's head, and his visionary ideas about what money could do were abandoned and forgotten.
In Millionaire, Janet Gleeson lucidly reconstructs this epic drama where fortunes were made and lost, paupers grew rich, and lords fell into penury -- and a modern fiscal philosophy was born. Her enthralling tragicomic tale reveals two great characters: John Law, with his complex personality and inscrutable motives, and money itself, whose true nature even to this day remains elusive.

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User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

Janet Gleeson has written a very good popular biography of John Law, whose financial schemes cannot but remind a modern reader of some of the monetary shenanigans we are familiar with from our own ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Traveller1 - LibraryThing

An informative, well written and well researched story of a grand con artist. This chap persuades the French government to allow him to set up a national bank, and he proceeds to swindle everyone else ... Read full review


A Man Apart
Gilded Youth
The Duel
The Exile
The Root of All Evil
The First Millionaire
Mississippi Madness
The Storms of Fate
The Whirligig of Time
The Prodigals Return
Venetian Sunset

The Bank
King of Half America
Finding the Philosophers Stone

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Page 13 - WITHIN the last twenty years commerce has been better understood in France than it had ever before been, from the reign of Pharamond to that of Louis XIV. Before this period it was a secret art, a kind of chemistry in the hands of three or four persons, who actually made gold, but without communicating the secret by which they had been enriched. The body of the nation were in such profound ignorance of this important secret that we had neither minister nor magistrate that knew what the words " annuities,"...

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About the author (2001)

Janet Gleeson is the author of the bestseller The Arcanum, as well as Millionaire, The Grenadillo Box, and The Serpent in the Garden. She lives with her family in Dorset.

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