The History of Money

( 5 )


In his most widely appealing book yet, one of today's leading authors of popular anthropology looks at the intriguing history and peculiar nature of money, tracing our relationship with it from the time when primitive men exchanged cowrie shells to the imminent arrival of the all-purpose electronic cash card. 320 pp. Author tour. National radio publicity. 25,000 print.

From the Hardcover edition.

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In his most widely appealing book yet, one of today's leading authors of popular anthropology looks at the intriguing history and peculiar nature of money, tracing our relationship with it from the time when primitive men exchanged cowrie shells to the imminent arrival of the all-purpose electronic cash card. 320 pp. Author tour. National radio publicity. 25,000 print.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Weatherford brings a cultural anthropologist's wide-angled perspective to this illuminating investigation of money's role in shaping human affairs. He identifies three great mutations in the story of money. The first began with the invention of coins in the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia 3000 years ago, sparking a monetary revolution that underpinned classical Greek and Roman civilizations. Next, family-owned, credit-giving banks of Renaissance Italy ushered in the modern world capitalist system, which swept away feudalism and abetted the expansion of European hegemony to the Americas. In the third major transition, predicts Weatherford (Savages and Civilization), the current age of paper money will give way to an era of cybermoney, or electronic cash, in which transactions are conducted via the Internet and by other forms of electronic transfer. Full of forgotten lore and provocative opinions (e.g., harmful inflation is identified as the dominant monetary theme of our century), and sprinkled with allusions to Voltaire, Goethe, L. Frank Baum and Gertrude Stein, this intriguing selective survey will captivate even readers with no particular yen for financial knowledge. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Anthropologist Weatherford (Savages and Civilization, LJ 12/93) has written an interesting and informative book about money, a subject often treated in a dry-as-dust technical manner. Money, according to Weatherford, has experienced three revolutions: the first, with the invention of metallic coins (gold, silver) 3000 years ago; the second, the development of paper money (now the most prevalent form of money) in Renaissance Italy; and today, on the cusp of the 21st century, the rise of electronic money (the all-purpose electronic cash card), which, he believes, will radically change the international economy. Along the way, Weatherford traces the rise of banking systems and other financial institutions and shows how national governments are playing a dominant role in managing the money supply. There is much peripheral but fascinating material in this anecdotal account. Well recommended for all readers.-Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York
Kirkus Reviews
An engagingly digressive audit of the mediums of exchange humankind has used and abused down through the years, from anthropologist Weatherford (Savages and Civilization, 1994, etc.).

Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author divides the history of money into three distinct stages. The first dates back nearly three millennia to the creation of coins in ancient Lydia (modern Turkey), whose best-known ruler, Croesus, has become a byword for affluence. The monetary market system spawned by the invention of coins, which eliminated the need to weigh gold for every transaction, eventually spread around the world, in the process destroying great empires and fostering development of a democratic and prosperous ancient Greek civilization. The Renaissance proved another turning point, bringing with it banks, paper money, and allied innovations that put paid to feudalism, opened the way for industrial capitalism, and financed the art and scholarship of the era. On the eve of the 21st century, according to Weatherford, the Global Village is about to enter an era of electronic money, which promises to produce socioeconomic, political, and cultural changes every bit as convulsive as those that racked earlier epochs. Which is not to say that the author deals in either doom or gloom. He simply offers a guided tour of the past and provides plausible scenarios for the future. Weatherford also studs his accessible text with scholarly delights that afford welcome respites from straightforward accounts of ATMs, currency speculation, the gold standard, hyperinflation, near money (food stamps, for example), and rates of exchange. Cases in point range from an appreciation of Edward Bellamy's prediction of credit cards in his utopian novel Looking Backward (1888) through a discussion of the ways in which L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) made an allegorical case for bimetallism.

An entertaining, on-the-money introduction to precisely what makes the world go 'round.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609801727
  • Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 476,685
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Weatherford is the author of the bestselling Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Crown, 2004), Savages and Civilization (Crown, 1993), Native Roots (Crown, 1990), and Indian Givers (Crown, 1988). He teaches at Macalester College and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2009

    AP World History Review: a desciption of Michael Taylor's opinion

    The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford, is an in-depth summary of how and why money came to be such a prominent part of our world. I felt that it was a well written book intended for the casually interested reader, instead of something to be used for information and facts. This, however, is a good thing, for it managed to keep my interest on something that seems like a boring topic. However, sometimes the repetitiveness in a few of the chapters was a definite annoyance. Over all, though, it is an interesting read that helps to explain how money and commerce managed to effect everything from the spread of Christianity to the start of the Renaissance.
    While I did enjoy this book, I feel that only certain types of people should read this book, for at times it can be quite tedious. Only those with an invested interest in history would like this book. Also, some of Weatherford's ideas on the future economical techniques see quite farfetched and it is hard to quite grasp what he is trying to propose. As a whole though, he took a boring subject and turned it into readable nonfiction, though there could have been some improvements

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2012

    The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford, is, as stated on the

    The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford, is, as stated on the cover, a history of money. It goes over how money came into being, how it has aided civilizations, and how it has brought empires to their knees. This book was written in a manner that kept me interested and yet was still able to convey some meaningful facts and statistics throughout its length. The book goes over the different kinds of money that have been used in history, such as food items, luxury items, shells, coinage, paper money, and digital money, and goes over the pros/cons of most of them. For example, it is stated that "commodity money", such as food, was less useful for stockpiling wealth due to the fact that many of the objects contained in that category are perishable or will otherwise lose their value due to wear or exposure over a period of time. Overall, I would have to say that this is a great book that you should read if you want to learn about money, its use throughout history, and its effect on such spheres as religion and culture.
    While I thought that the book was quite interesting, others may not think that it is. He repeats many things multiple times in short spans, and the writing can be somewhat boring at times. Nevertheless, it is a good nonfiction book, as it manages to grasp the reader's attention in some manner, unlike so many other nonfictions books which inspire boredom in those that read them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 14, 2009

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    Posted October 6, 2010

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