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Beggar Thy Neighbor: A History of Usury and Debt Hardcover – March 15, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1ST edition (March 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812244621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812244625
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A compelling book not only for history buffs but also for financial market participants who will find that events today have a long history leading up to our current travails."—Henry Kaufman, author of On Money and Markets: A Wall Street Memoir



"Charles R. Geisst takes us on a splendid tour of the law of usury from ancient times to the present. Along the way one encounters Cicero, Charlemagne, Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Michael Milken and many others in this engaging yet critical account of what may well be the oldest and most ubiquitous form of economic regulation. Highly recommended both for the lay reader interested in economic affairs and the academic specialist in money and banking."—Hugh Rockoff, Rutgers University



"An engaging, comprehensive history of the concept of interest and usury."—Robert Wright, Augustana College, South Dakota

About the Author

Charles R. Geisst is Ambassador Charles A. Gargano Professor of Finance at Manhattan College and the author of eighteen other books, including Collateral Damaged: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America and Wall Street: A History.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trading Central on September 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Presentation of economic and financial history has traditionally been one of two formats. One being the presentation of the economic statistics and analysis of those numbers or a narrative encompassing the activities of either main characters or institutions of a period under review. This volume uses the latter approach to summarize the evolution of finance and more specifically credit from being a sin to being an important element in modern day economic affairs.

With little or passing reference to interest rates of a period under review throughout the text, those wishing to formulate their own theories of finance and credit for a period being reviewed would be advised to seek out Sidney Homer's classic work " A History of Interest Rates" to supplement this book.

Otherwise this volume may be classified as a useful overview concisely drafted from the perspective of a financial historian versus the other popular book on debt that has been drafted by an anthropologist that also delves into the historical roots of the evolution of credit and borrowing.

While not as ambition as claiming to provide the first "5000 years" of borrowing history, the periods of review provide useful turning points in the evolution of credit without the pretension of trying to delve deep into the philosophical undertones of the classic thinkers or relevance to religious teachings forbidding usury in the past.

The book nicely sets the framework of analysis selecting eight turning points in the evolution of thought on credit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. Sampf on July 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This excellent book surveys usury and the development of interest from biblical times to the present. What I found rewarding was that the author covers, in detail, biblical materials about usury in the Middle East and ends with the Dodd-Frank law. The best part is that it is a detailed financial history, talking about interest and how it was calculated, not just a string of anecdotes pieced together and called a history. The book does not give just the highlights but underlines them with rich facts and detail.

It is clear that there was much confusion about interest in the ancient world and it spilled over into later years. There were those who understood interest and those who understood only its evil effects and naturally the knowledgeable always won the battle. The march of the western world toward capitalism and industrialization has always been thought to kill off the idea of usury but as shown, it lives on.

The most important part of this book is its major theme. Laws against usury have become part of the natural law over time - those laws shared by all nations and religions. Today, the idea is still alive although it seems to be hiding in plain sight. If you take out a large mortgage you can't afford, the idea will come home to roost, as it always has. Payday loans exist, stronger than ever, and are advertised on TV and radio by well known personalities. Lots more examples are found here.

This is the best financial history, or just plain history, I have read in years. It deserves a wide audience and should be around for a long time. An excellent synthesis of the old and the new.
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By Patrick Craig on October 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Debt is the major problem and injust.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While the content of the book is interesting, I found sections very difficult to read. Some sentences or entire paragraphs were repetitive or unclear, sometimes even seemingly contradictory. I think another round of edits could have significantly improved the book.
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