By James Buchan
John Law of Lauriston blazed like a meteor over Europe and America in the early eighteenth century before falling to earth. At the summit of his reputation in 1720, a period lasting just over one hundred days, Law was the most powerful man in France after the Regent, the Duke of Orléans. He was also the richest private citizen in Europe.For France, brought to the brink by the wars and extravagances of the Sun King, Louis XIV, the Scotsman's financial innovations were a lifeline, but had for consequence a stock-market boom that came spectacularly to grief. The Mississippi Bubble, as it came to be known, left in France a fear of financial modernity that crippled her in her rivalry with Great Britain. Over the centuries, John Law has been portrayed as a crook, a rake and a madman. James Buchan shows Law was none of those but a powerful mind in pursuit of a vision of public prosperity that overrode all ties to country, property or happiness. Many of his ideas are now the plainest orthodoxy. Using Law's letters and writings, neglected family papers in Scotland and English county towns, bank ledgers in Genoa and Holland, notarial records and secret police reports in France and Venice, as well as the archive of the Jacobite court in exile, James Buchan resurrects Law's vagabond careerThe result is a glimpse of one of the most astonishing lives ever lived.