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The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World Paperback – October 27, 2009
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ferguson examines the financial subplot behind some of the major historical powers such as the role of money in ancient Mesopotamia, the denarius in Roman society, and gold and silver in the civilization of the Incas. He is very good in his descriptions of financial families like the Medicis and the Rothchilds, and how they became banking dynasties. Another memorable episode was the rise of Amsterdam as the world's financial center and the center's subsequent shift to London.
History is also filled with financial disasters of which we are well aware today. Ferguson tells the story of John Law and how he became France's head of finance.Read more ›
The objective here is to illuminate the modern economic system by surveying its historical origins, and to a large extent, Ferguson succeeds. The book is targeted to a lay audience and such readers are certain to walk away from a reading with an enhanced understanding of modern economics. The author generally takes the time to explain even elementary concepts in an effective manner, but there are also several maddening instances throughout where he casually references somewhat arcane metrics and complex ideas (e.g., VaR) without any explanation as to their meaning and significance. In this respect, Ferguson can be at times simultaneously too basic for the advanced reader and too complex for the novice.
Never dry reading, the narrative flows freely over its 358 pages, with perhaps the most interesting and edifying chapters being those on the bond, equity, and real estate markets. I especially enjoyed Ferguson's exploration of the five stages of "bubble" (displacement, euphoria, mania, distress, and revulsion).Read more ›
Ferguson celebrates financiers as the source of modern wealth and prosperity. He backs up his claim by a historical examination of the last 500 years. This includes the Italians in the late Middle Ages, as well as the Dutch in the 17th century and Britain's empire success which he partially attributes to the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694.
After setting the historical context Ferguson becomes a pundit on the current global situation. Commenting on those who speculate in the financial markets today Ferguson writes, "When people have a run of luck, they very quickly impute this to their own brilliance. Once you start interpreting your good fortune as your skill, you're very quickly a master of the universe who can never fall. That, of course, is precisely when you fall." He likens financiers to gamblers, which may not be a completely fair connection. Of course there is risk involved in investing, but the primary concern in the financial world is how to limit that risk, react wisely, and be patient.
As Ferguson considers the financial crises his assessment is neither overly positive nor calamitous. "Before this crisis," Ferguson says, "there were people who thought there would never be another recession--that kind of crazy, myopic, unhistorical belief. That was followed in the last month or so by wild panic, as if it's the end of the world."
Ferguson states the obvious when he declares we will all be affected by the current financial mess, and that it will take a while for the market to correct itself.
In short, if you like history more than finance, this is going to be an enjoyable book for you. However, if it's the other way around the details might be suffocating.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While each anecote was interesting it was very difficult to follow as a whole. You can start a chapter in Venice, jump forward four hundred years to Venezuela, then back in time to... Read morePublished 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
This was a decent enough read, especially if you are able to watch the documentary based on the book.Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is the 4th book I've read by Niall Ferguson (Empire, World at War, Colossus). Ferguson generally does an excellent job narrating multiple histories and boiling them down into... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jack Hyer
If you are interested in History you have to read this one!! I read certain parts over again, the knowledge from this book will carry you far. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ashanti
this is deeper than I thought. The writer is a economist, not a capitalist.Published 2 months ago by Richard Lee