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Wealth of an Empire: The Treasure Shipments that Saved Britain and the World, by Robert Switky

Washington: Potomac Books, 2013. Pp. xiv, 248. . Illus., tables, appends., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1612344968.

Wealth of an Empire: The Treasure Shipments that Saved Britain and the World, by Robert Switky. Washington: Potomac Books, 2013. Pp. xiv, 248. Illus., tables, appends., notes, biblio., index. $26.95, ISBN 978-1-61234-496-6.

Saving Britain’s Wealth and Heritage

Wealth of an Empire is definitely not “drums and trumpets” military history, but it certainly is about a critically important, if largely obscure episode of the Second World War.

Political scientist Switky (Sonoma State) throws light for the first time on one of the best kept secrets of the Second World War, the shipment of Britain’s gold reserves, critical financial documents, and national treasures to safety in North America for safekeeping in the event of a German invasion, The cash value was enormous; the bouillon alone would today easily be worth perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, and the paper securities billions more, while historic treasures like the Crown Jewels are beyond price.

Switky writes well, and tells a surprisingly interesting story. He fills us in on many of the complexities of international banking and gives a rather detailed account of British’s war time financial strains. There also an element of “cloak and dagger,” with secret voyages through submarine infested waters, torpedoings, German espionage, and more, including the fate of French gold stored in Canada and the eventual repatriation of the gold and other valuables back to Britain.

An interesting read about an important, but little mentioned episode of the Second World War

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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