BookBrowse Reviews God and Gold by Walter R. Mead

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

God and Gold

Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

by Walter R. Mead

God and Gold by Walter R. Mead X
God and Gold by Walter R. Mead
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 464 pages
    Oct 2008, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Paul Hughes

Buy This Book

About this Book



God and Gold weaves history, literature, philosophy, and religion together into a book that helps us understand the world we live in

Walter Russell Mead starts his serious book with a joke, and it's a funny one, not to mention smart, which bodes well for the book itself, as it shows Mead taking us into his confidence: a writer telling witty tales that assume intelligence in his readers.

God and Gold
is engaging in the extreme, which you can't say of most books spanning more than 350 years of history with an emphasis on religion, politics and money. This is a weighty book with both historical and contemporary import, starting with Oliver Cromwell and ending with George W. Bush.

In Part I Mead makes his case for the dominance of England and America since both became nations, indeed empires, in their own unique and intimately connected ways. He engages the reader with a technique journalists call the 'Wall Street Journal lead,' beginning each chapter with the story of a person which illustrates the theme of the chapter.

Having established a thread that connects Cromwell and Ronald Reagan in Part I, part II is a linked conversation through time delineating events that show Britain and the U.S. achieving the dominance Mead claims. Each chapter begins with an anecdote to capture our interest as Mead humorously expounds on what, in lesser hands, could be a dreary litany-compendium of financial and ecclesiastical data.

Part III is about the resources, personal, financial and religious, that the two nations used to dominate, which leads into Part IV which explores how, time after time in the aftermath of every triumph, these two nation-friends have confidently announced that "things have been taken care of" – and how they have consistently been proven spectacularly wrong. In conclusion, Mead rounds everything up with a look at what all this means for today and for the future.

Throughout, Mead demonstrates a love of paradox, demonstrating the union of cynicism with faith and pragmatic common sense with religious devotion, in the political and economic behavior of both Britain and the USA. As Mead puts, "To Pepsi from Pepys" — "countervailing forces and values must contend."

Mead shows that these forces, while huge, are also human. Just as an Anglo-American historical juggernaut never quite conquers as much as it thinks it has, we must beware the danger of making too much of it all. This history is not an inexorable result of nations but of men. The connections exist because there is, truly, nothing new under the sun.

But we keep living it out in every generation, and it all seems so very new to us. This book — about history, but not a history book — reminds us, engagingly, that actions matter.

God and gold … religion and money … four centuries of politics and statecraft: polite company excludes talk of such things, but you can take this book's ideas to a dinner party without fear. You can even start with Mead's opening joke:

"In Colonial Virginia a wealthy and well-connected planter's son once asked his Anglican rector if it was possible to find salvation outside the Church of England. The rector struggled with his conscience; he could hardly claim that only Anglicans get to Heaven — but he didn't want to encourage this well-born young parishioner to associate with the dissenting riffraff and wandering evangelists of the region. After a few minutes of thought he was able to give the young man an answer. "Sir," said the divine, "the possibility about which you enquire exists. But no gentleman would avail himself of it."

Many Americans feel a little bit like that rector when confronted with discussions of American power. We know it's there and we know it's important — but the subject makes us uncomfortable. No gentleman — or, for that matter, no lady — would bring it up."

Reviewed by Paul Hughes

This review was originally published in November 2007, and has been updated for the October 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist


Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.