- 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: #13,125 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Definitely recommend to anyone interested in finance especially our current situation in the United States.
In his foreward he explains, "As I completed my research for this book in the early months of 2008, it was already a distinct possibility that the US economy might suffer a recession. Was this because American companies had gotten worse at designing new products? Had the pace of technological innovation suddenly slackened? No. The proximate cause of the economic uncertainty of 2008 was financial: to be precise, a spasm in the credit markets caused by mounting defaults on a species of debt known euphemistically as subprime mortgages." He provides entertaining (yet scary) observations of the "ubiquity and proximity of both easy credit and easy bankruptcy" in the US.
The book is divided into money and banking, bond and stock markets, insurance, and property. It is highly readable and would be a great substitute to the dry tomes that are often used in secondary and post-secondary economics and finance classes (the accompanying DVD would make another great teaching aid). Ferguson makes a strong argument for his central thesis: "the ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of man" and that we humans are largely woefully ignorant of finance. And he does this through entertaining tales of our economic history, by bringing clarity to the complex, and by sharing a laugh with us in terms of our economic foibles that are tied more to our humanity than to our financial acumen.
Ferguson call financial markets "the mirror of mankind", and as such, the entire financial system is so complex that he describes it as "non-linear, even chaotic." The book is valuable because it brings a bit of order to that chaos or at least an opportunity for greater understanding.
After recently reading This Time It's Different, I found Mr. Ferguson's style of writing rather engaging, as if I were seeing the threads of a novel come together to a logical conclusion. Carmen and Rogoff's work would be an excellent follow-up to this book if you're actually interested in seeing what happens during and after each type of financial crisis (external default, domestic default, banking crises, currency crashes, and inflation outbursts), but this book gives the reader a push in the right direction.
While readers who want a quick overview of the subject matter will probably leave feeling satisfied, I'm betting a good many others will find their appetite for the subject matter whetted. And that, in my opinion, is what a good author does - they encourage you to keep thinking, long after you put the book down.