A History of the London Stock Market 1945-2009
A History of the London Stock Market 1945-2009 is the latest edition of George G. Blakey’s detailed and lively review of the world’s most famous and important equity exchange. Blakey is well versed in the subject matter, having written the previous volumes, as well as having worked for many years as a stockbroker and financial analyst.
The first thing which struck me about this book was its sheer size. Weighing in at over 550 pages this is not a tome which can be finished in one sitting. And readers should be aware that there is a heavy focus on more recent stock market history. The years from 1945 to 1965 receive only little attention, while the events of 2008 and 2009 alone make up around a fifth of the content. In that vein, owners of the previous edition, which omits the turbulent events of 2007-2009, will get a lot of new content by purchasing the latest offering.
In the introduction Blakey sets the scene of what’s to come by preluding the book with a brief overview of stock market events during the years of World War II. Following that each chapter, most of which are divided into individual years, cover over 60 years of stock market history, with the major events of each period, the winning firms, the losers, relevant economic and political events all discussed in depth. Each section begins with a useful chart of how the FTSE 100 (or FT 30 from 1966 to 1984 and FT Ordinary Index before that) performed during the period, with individual paragraphs clearly labelled with the main events of the year. Along the way Blakey gives a sense of the major changes occurring in the markets, both from a macroeconomic perspective and down to company and individual levels.
My favourite element of the book is how Blakey described some of the most famous stock market disasters. Who could forget the technology boom of the early 21st century where investors were willing to pay ludicrous sums for firms with no more than a website and a couple of IT graduates on the board. And the individual company calamities also make for entertaining reading: the rise and fall of Polly Peck and the horrific debt fuelled acquisition strategy which brought down Marconi for example. These stories are useful in that they give investors important information on how to spot the next stock market bubble or disastrous investment.
To make this book perfect a brief history of the early days of the stock exchange, from its formation in the 17th century coffee houses, through to the South Sea Bubble, could have been covered – although for reasons of space I recognise that this is probably not possible. In the words of investment legend Jim Slater, “…in the absence of a crystal ball, a history book is the next best thing.” A History of the London Stock Market 1945-2009 should be any investor’s history book of choice.
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