The Ascent Of Money (Niall Ferguson)

Subtitled “The Financial History of the World”, this book is more a brief treatise on some issues in finance, with examples from history. The book is organized in topical chapters, which (for obvious reasons of popular history writing) draw as much as possible from an ancient example and a modern one – using those terms in their contemporary and popular senses, of course, in which “ancient” is that which precedes the first World War of the last century, and the “modern” is what happened yesterday. This topical organization prevents Ferguson from really living up to his subtitle, for which some mild disapproval.
However, the book that was actually written is reasonably engaging, and in its somewhat scattered way shed light on both the interplay of finance and history and the recent history leading roughly from the depression of the 1930s to the current one. There’s still room for some good books to be written with this subtitle, but this one is worth a look. The afterword, as it turns out, is worth a read while you’re standing in the bookstore aisle, if nothing else. It’s essentially a 20-page think piece on finance, and as it lacks any trace of data or evidence or even serious argument, it’s quite readable.

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