The story of the great gold rush to California in 1849-50 has been told before, many times. Brands tells it again, at length and in fascinating detail. But he also sees it as the detonator of the mining revolution which placed gold right at the centre of the world's wealth-machinery.
Before California, there was not enough gold in the world for the metal to be a currency standard around the globe. The great Spanish discoveries in Central and South America in the sixteenth century had been primarily silver mines. Though