Death of an Empire - The Rise and Murderous Fall of Salem, America's Richest City, Robert Booth

Death of an Empire - The Rise and Murderous Fall of Salem, America's Richest City, Robert Booth

Although this book isn't directly military history, it is connected to the topic. Salem made much of its money during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when most of Europe's merchant fleets were trapped in port, and the British fleet was threatened by privateers and French naval action. The first hints of vulnerability came with President Jefferson's ridiculous self-imposed trade embargo, which banned Americans from overseas trade, but the real decline began with the War of 1812, starting with a fresh self-imposed trade embargo and ending with the effective British blockade of US ports. By the time the war ended the Napoleonic Wars were over, and Salem's merchants returned to a world that now contained much more competition, with seas dominated by the Royal Navy and less opportunities for profitable trade. More blows were self-inflicted, with Jefferson's successors imposing a series of tariffs, which were designed to protect new manufacturing industries, and at the same time kill off the merchant traders. Salem was also threatened by the rise of nearby Boston, which threatened to suck away her most talented people, and the forces of the Industrial Revolution. 

This book traces the decline of Salem by following the stories of a series of her most important families, all centred around the murder of one of the richest and most respected of her merchant princes, killed by a dissolute son of one of the other major families. The background to the crime is the decline and fall of a series of long-established merchant families, as the ever worsening trading conditions made them more and more vulnerable to any short term problems. Our story is centred in Salem, but it also takes us to the trading ports of India and the Far East, where individual moments of bad luck could leave a trading family devastated, by piracy or disease. This is a fascinating story, and a reminder of the long term impact of warfare.

I - Masters of the Universe
1 - At War
2 - The Lost Prince
3 - White Heat
4 - Panic
5 - Lost at Sea
6 - The Prophet

II - Visions & Delusions
7 - White Hope
8 - Celebrations
9 - Jubilee
10 - Dreams of New Bliss
11 - Twilight

III - Into the Darkness
12 - Nightfall
13 - The Salem Murder
14 - Confession
15 - Imps of Hell & Devil's Roam
16 - Death After Death
17 - Conflagration

IV - Blown Away
18 - The Magnate
19 - The Mirage

Author: Robert Booth
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press
Year: 2011

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