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John Law

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781848666078

Price: £14.99

ON SALE: 6th September 2018

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General

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At the summit of his power, John Law was the most famous man in Europe.

Born in Scotland in 1671, he was convicted of murder in London and, after his escape from prison, fled Scotland for the mainland when Union with England brought with it a warrant for his arrest.

On the continent he lurched from one money-making scheme to the next – selling insurance against losing lottery tickets in Holland, advising the Duke of Savoy – amassing a fortune of some £80,000.

But for his next trick he had grander ambitions. When Louis XIV died, leaving a thoroughly bankrupt France to his five-year-old heir, Law gained the ear of the Regent, Philippe D’Orleans. In the years that followed, Law’s financial wizardry transformed the fortunes of France, enriching speculators and investors across the continent, and he was made Controller-General of Finances, effectively becoming the French Prime Minister.

But the fall from grace that was to follow was every bit as spectacular as his meteoric rise.

John Law, by a biographer of Adam Smith and the author of Frozen Desire and Capital of the Mind, dramatises the life of one of the most inventive financiers in history, a man who was born before his time and in whose day the word millionaire came to be coined.


An utterly compelling and captivating work . . . he brings a natural storyteller's relish to his subject
Irvine Welsh, Guardian, on The Capital of the Mind.
Mr Buchan has a clear writing style, a light touch and a irreverent sense of humour . . . he makes difficult subjects accessible and, sometimes, poetic.
In Mr. Buchan's able hands, Smith and his words come across as they should, in all their lucidity and elegance.
William Grimes, New York Times, on Adam Smith: and the Pursuit of Perfect Liberty.
James Buchan's elegant prose sparkles on the page.
New Statesman.
I don't believe this country has a better writer to offer than James Buchan.
Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books.
One of our finest writers.
John Burnside, The Times.
Each book he writes is a discovery.
Steven Poole, Guardian.
Excellent . . . Buchan's book is both scrupulously researched and humanely curious . . . It has Jacobite politics, elopements, prisons breaks and court scandal . . . much to savour.
Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday.
A wonderful portrait of Law's Paris and Europe, of the Regent and the Jacobites. I loved it and could hardly put it down.
Philip Mansel
There's a place for a well researched, popular, comprehensive biography of John Law and Buchan's is certainly that . . . Even with the benefit of this wonderful book with its wealth of new information and masterful storytelling, it is difficult to know what to make of John Law.
Harry McGrath, Scottish Review of Books.
Erudite, elegantly-written . . . Full of interesting people, variously disgraceful or brilliant, and of compelling stories overlapped . . . Buchan is possessed of a remarkably well-furnished mind. His story is a tremendous one.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, New Statesman.
In Buchan, Law has at last found a biographer who combines an expert understanding of finance, a profound knowledge of 18th-century history, and a novelist's gift for anecdote and pace. The result is an immensely valuable and enjoyable book that conjures a narrative worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson out of a deeply impressive harvest of primary archival research. It is history of the highest class, and will take its place deservedly as the standard biography of Law.
Felix Martin, Financial Times.
Law's is an extraordinary story, and this is an extraordinary book . . . Buchan writes with such wit and lucidity.
Allan Massie, Literary Review.
Buchan tells the story and portrays the man with enormous sweep and brio. He has clearly done a vast amount of research among the primary sources, yet somehow manages to combine the historian's sense of the wider picture with the epigrammatic wit of the novelist, and the antiquarian's delight in curios . . . It is a fascinating, poignant, almost heroic story, and we must thank James Buchan for giving us this masterly account of it.
Jesse Norman, Spectator.
Law's story is well and wittily told by Buchan . . . The mores of the time... are superbly depicted. The age comes alive.
David Aaronovitch, The Times.