Niall Ferguson makes a strong, compelling case for the development of money and banking as a catalyst for the advancement of civilization. Yet while some critics praised his clear, comprehensible writing, punctuated with anecdotes and historical details, others were nonplussed by his explanations and narrative detours. Several critics also bemoaned the book's choppy and uneven structure—an echo of the episodic, six-part television series it was meant to accompany. So it seems the UK critics liked the book less because they had seen the show. Though perhaps best suited to readers with a fundamental understanding of financial terms and theories, Ferguson's latest work provides valuable insight into the inner workings of the global economy, past and present. For interested readers, it demonstrates how our current fiscal meltdown fits into the bigger historical picture and laments humanity's perennial inability to learn from this history.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
*Starred Review* British historian Ferguson follows Empire (2003), his provocative take on British history, and his equally provocative take on the American “empire” in Colossus (2004), with a not so much provocative as fresh look at the history of money and its ramifications on how modern life has evolved, since to him “money is the root of most progress.” One of his basic premises cannot be argued with: most people in the English-speaking world are woefully ignorant of things financial. To that end, Ferguson, in his desire to educate the general public, presents the history of money within these contexts: the rise of money and the history of credit, and the histories of the bond market, the stock market, insurance, the real-estate market, and international finance. There is an ease to his prose that leaves this complicated subject interesting to and approachable by any general reader. For the history and social-science side of the public library business collection. --Brad Hooper