The Ascent of Money

The Ascent of Money

A Financial History of the World

Book - 2008
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Watch the PBS program based on The Ascent of Money .

Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of finance, from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance.

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it's the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it's the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money , Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What's more, he reveals financial history as the essential backstory behind all history.

Through Ferguson's expert lens familiar historical landmarks appear in a new and sharper financial focus. Suddenly, the civilization of the Renaissance looks very different: a boom in the market for art and architecture made possible when Italian bankers adopted Arabic mathematics. The rise of the Dutch republic is reinterpreted as the triumph of the world's first modern bond market over insolvent Habsburg absolutism. And the origins of the French Revolution are traced back to a stock market bubble caused by a convicted Scot murderer.

With the clarity and verve for which he is known, Ferguson elucidates key financial institutions and concepts by showing where they came from. What is money? What do banks do? What's the difference between a stock and a bond? Why buy insurance or real estate? And what exactly does a hedge fund do?

This is history for the present. Ferguson travels to post-Katrina New Orleans to ask why the free market can't provide adequate protection against catastrophe. He delves into the origins of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Perhaps most important, The Ascent of Money documents how a new financial revolution is propelling the world's biggest countries, India and China, from poverty to wealth in the space of a single generation--an economic transformation unprecedented in human history.

Yet the central lesson of the financial history is that sooner or later every bubble bursts--sooner or later the bearish sellers outnumber the bullish buyers, sooner or later greed flips into fear. And that's why, whether you're scraping by or rolling in it, there's never been a better time to understand the ascent of money.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
ISBN: 9781594201929
Branch Call Number: 330.09 FERGUSON
Characteristics: v, 441 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.


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May 30, 2016

Very easy to read. A good introduction to the history of finance, money, and economics.

Not really an academic piece to quote or cite, but offers a lot of knowledge and insight into the role money plays in history and our life.

May 23, 2016

Readers who are more sensitive to any implicit support of social injustice may wish to learn more on the subject of finance from some other library book.

Nov 11, 2015

Enjoyed the history behind money. It is written in a very readable style.

Apr 20, 2013

This book should rightfully be titled: "The Harvard Theory of Money" - - to read the real history of money, you might check out Ellen Brown's "The Web of Debt" for authentic historicity. Ferguson is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee ( the lobbyist group for the international super-rich, which has various academics as targeted members to espouse their agenda. Ferguson's mutli-volume (and authorized) puff piece on the Rothschild family is sorely and sadly lacking in background information, although Ferguson attacks David Ickes in the forward to the first volume (I had to look up who the heck Ickes is, and then ponder why Ferguson would mention him??????).

Jan 31, 2013

This is a great book! Unfortunately the publisher saved money by using a spell checker instead of a proof reader. The use of a spell checker instead of a proof reader is an ever more common occurence. What a shame (as it diminishes the quality of the work)! A spellchecker cannot tell the difference between a misspelled (but otherwise existing) word, e.g. heath (instead of health) or that (instead of than). It can also not detect redundant words (i.e. the inappropriate repetition of the same word), or missing words. A spell checker cannot detect the ccidental doubling of a word. A spell checker cannot detect missing words. A spell checker cannot detect wrong syntax. Moreover, when the wrong word (e.g. stability instead of instability) is used a spellchecker is useless. Book prices have gone through the roof in the last few decades and by and large we are offered inferior quality: All the mistakes a spell checker cannot detect slow down one's reading speed. It's absolutely appalling.

Jan 15, 2011

This book describes the history of financial innovation as an evolutionary process mirroring our cultural evolution over the past 700 years. I wonder if this is a strictly economic assessment and what a similar history of social, cultural, legal, or political innovation, studying an altogether different human subject, would produce. From a legal standpoint, financial evolution is a process of breaking down legal barriers, which implies a re-ordering of what is acceptable. In this sense, the result is terrifying in that it implies a greater acceptance of how we manage priorities and risk as a society through ill-fated financial gambits. On the other hand, maybe this is more of an analysis of an ethereal merchant class which, brandishing the science of economics, has come to wield a great deal of structural and productive power in our particular cultural climate. But can this class, in an age where people and citizens are increasingly investors and property owners, be easily distinguished from any other? Is legal change actually analogous to cultural evolution? If so, why? If not, how do we distinguish between them?

Sep 28, 2010

Entertaining and informative. This is a great quick introduction to the financial system. I'd recommend it to almost anyone who wants to understand the key role economics has played in world history.

Sep 29, 2009

interesting stories

Feb 23, 2009

good to get the historical perspective, but a bit like reading a TV program


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