With all eyes on the precarious global economy, 20th-century economic history has never been more relevant. Interpretations of the defining economic episode of the last century — the Great Depression — are plentiful (and often contradictory), but the economic history of the balance of the century, especially the 40-year period known as the Cold War, has not been the subject of very much serious scholarship.
Once upon a time, when the world was still on the gold standard, four men destroyed the financial order of things by engineering, by accident or by design, the collapse of the world’s economy. What is now known as the Great Depression is textbook history for every schoolboy, along with the names of the politicians — Hoover, FDR, and their counterparts overseas — who grappled with the challenges of the greatest economic and financial meltdown the world has yet seen. But the men truly responsible for the Great Depression — and, by association, for the revolution in government and finance that came about as a reaction — have, for the most part, eluded the scrutiny of the historian’s pen.
George Orwell's novel 1984, published in 1949, portrayed a future totalitarian world, ruled by a seemingly omnipotent tyrant called Big Brother. When the actual year 1984 rolled around, the world didn't look just the way Orwell had envisioned; therefore some criticized the book as a failed prophecy. Today, however, the world looks much more as Orwell envisioned it. Moreover, if you read Orwell's novel carefully, it's not even certain that the year is 1984 — that was simply what the people were told by the government, which controlled all information.