July 1st, 2004

breaking bad


A marvellous article, recommended by Daniel Davies from Crooked Timber, on the economic system which built up within a large mixed-nationality Prisoner of War camp during the 2nd WW. It was written by RA Radford, an Economic professor who was imprisoned in a series of middling-to-large camps during 1943-5. Worth reading if you are interested in war, prison, social organisation or economics.

I found it quite vivid, in its dry way (if that isn't to paradoxical)

The people who first visited the highly organised French trading centre, with its stalls and known prices found coffee extract - relatively cheap among the tea-drinking English - commanding a fancy price in biscuits or cigarettes, and some enterprising people made small fortunes that way. (Incidentally we found out later that much of the coffee went "over the wire" and sold for phenomenal prices at black market cafes in Munich: some of the French prisoners were said to have made substantial sums in Marks.