The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
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The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

3.7 97
by Niall Ferguson
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" Before regulators throw block trades, bond swaps, bridge financing, butterfly spreads and Black-Scholes out with the bathwater, they should find time to read Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money."
-The Wall Street Journal

"[An] excellent, just in time guide to the history of finance and financial crisis."
-The Washington Post

" Shrewdly anticipates many aspects of the current financial crisis, which has toppled banks, precipitated gigantic government bailouts and upended global markets."
-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Shelby Coffey III
The pleasure of reading Ferguson's treatment comes partly from the clarity of his explanations of financial concepts but mostly from his pen portraits of the extravagantly gifted and flawed characters who have led money's long rise. He shows us how far we have come since Mesopotamian moneylenders developed rudimentary accounting around 1,000 B.C. and the Medici created elements of modern banking in 14th- and 15th-century Florence…an admirably illuminating book that will take its place beside such modern classics as John Train's The Money Masters, Peter L. Bernstein's Against the Gods, and Adam Smith's Supermoney.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
…the book as a whole is animated by Mr. Ferguson's narrative gifts, among them his ability to discuss complex ideas in user-friendly terms. He also has a knack for illustrating his larger hypotheses with colorful stories about people like Nathan Rothschild (the subject of one of his earlier books); the Scottish economist and gambler John Law (described as "the man who invented the stock market bubble"); and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and his so-called Chicago Boys
—The New York Times
Library Journal

With global financial markets experiencing severe turbulence, Harvard historian Ferguson (The Pity of War) presents a timely history of money and finance from the advent of coins to J.P Morgan Chase's takeover of Bear Stearns earlier this year. He describes humanity's major financial innovations such as banks, bonds, joint stock companies, insurance, and property ownership as well as the pitfalls of inflation, recessions, and asset bubbles. Ferguson finishes by discussing the various iterations of globalization over the past 100 years and one of the newest and currently most notorious financial developments: hedge funds. He keeps his story interesting with humor and unexpected twists such as how a fund to provide for the widows of Scottish clergymen laid the foundations for modern insurance theory. Commenting on the safety normally ascribed to investing in property, he observes ironically that the only real security entailed is for lenders who in the event of loan defaults can seize properties. Though not comprehensive in scope, Ferguson's lighthearted but thoughtful stroll through financial history is a welcome and recommended addition for public libraries and undergraduate collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/08.]
—Lawrence Maxted

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594201929
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/13/2008
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
" Before regulators throw block trades, bond swaps, bridge financing, butterfly spreads and Black-Scholes out with the bathwater, they should find time to read Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money."
-The Wall Street Journal

"[An] excellent, just in time guide to the history of finance and financial crisis."
-The Washington Post

" Shrewdly anticipates many aspects of the current financial crisis, which has toppled banks, precipitated gigantic government bailouts and upended global markets."
-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Meet the Author

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, and Colossus, he also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. Since 2003 he has written and presented three highly successful television documentary series for British television: Empire, American Colossus, and, most recently, The War of the World.

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