- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143116177
- ISBN-13: 978-0143116172
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 401 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World 1st Edition
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From Bookmarks Magazine
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 --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
*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 --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Top customer reviews
In the "Ascent of Money", Niall Ferguson has written and entertaining book on the history of money from Mesopotamian times to the present. Published in a timely fashion in 2008, as the World descended into its latest "Bust", this book provides a good overview of how and when money and financial products developed. The narrative is interlaced with tales of men, who contributed to or were destructive of these systems, institutions and/or countries and as always with a historical overview, we are left wondering why we never learn from our past. Sadly, the answer is most likely that we either do not know our past or think "This time it will be different" - and it never is!
Definitely recommend to anyone interested in finance especially our current situation in the United States.
In short, a great read on an intriguing topic, and one that will keep me coming back to Ferguson's writing.
Ferguson takes the reader though nearly 4000 years of relevant financial history. Each chapter is dedicated to the development of various financial tools and instruments, including: fiat money, credit, bonds, equity, insurance and real estate. He then proceeds to describe the meaning behind modern day buzz words, such as hedge funds, globalization, and computer investment models.
Again, the author's background in history leads one to believe that knowledge of financial history is necessary in order to avoid a financial crisis. Ferguson reaffirms this point by stating: "[t]o put it bluntly, the Nobel Prize winners had known plenty of mathematics, but not enough history."
To build on this, one can conclude that the efficient markets hypothesis did indeed fail to explain what history has shown in the past, simply put: all bubbles burst. The markets and rational investors failed to correct the markets and price the assets at their true value. It is eye opening to see the similarities between the Dutch Tulip crisis, the Great Depression, the fall of Dot Coms, and the present housing bubble.
In the chapter regarding globalization, Ferguson stresses the importance of Chinese-American relations (Chimerica) on the world. These two countries are singled out, because they "account for just over a 10th of the world's land surface, a quarter of its population, and a third of its economic output, and more than half of the global economic growth of the last eight years." He partially attributes the current financial crisis to the balance of trade between China and America (where the prior saves while the latter spends).
While Ferguson does a wonderful job creating a survey of relevant events that helped shape the modern financial system, at times the emphasis placed on the role of finance in history seems to be overinflated and one-sided. For example, Ferguson took a significantly different approach identifying the turning point in the American Civil War. According to the author, the capture of New Orleans was far more crucial to the success of the Union than the fall of Vicksburg a year later. His argument is based on the assumption that the south was no longer able to deliver its primary export, cotton, to pay for its collateralized debt obligations in Europe. Europeans perceived Confederate bonds to be risky investments, and refused to buy them without collateralization; therefore, fall of New Orleans led to the failure to deliver cotton, and in turn resulted in a default. Since no further financing was possible, the Confederacy suffered from hyperinflation and virtually went bankrupt. There is no doubt that this has been a very important factor in the Union's victory, yet the author completely ignores a number of other crucial events; such as Union's capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862, or the fall of Atlanta in 1865. It is also very well possible that it was the specific people in power who resulted in such turn of events. Perhaps the superior leadership abilities of General Grant and President Lincoln were the reason for Union's success, and if they were not yet alive the events would have taken a different turn. One could even go as far as to say that leadership abilities are the primary factor, as without them New Orleans would have stood free, with exports flowing freely and feeding Confederate treasury.
This book serves as a reminder that key components of the modern financial system were not invented in New York in the last decade. Instead, they take from their roots deep within thousands of years of history, and work to shape the system today. While understanding mathematics is important, the numbers are worthless without understanding of the historical background.