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Jacob Long
Jacob Long

The Ascent Of Money: A Financial History Of The...



Michael Hirsh of The New York Times glowingly mentions that "Ferguson takes us on an often enlightening and enjoyable spelunking tour through the underside of great events, a lesson in how the most successful great powers have always been underpinned by smart money".[4] The Guardian's book review also lavishes praise on Ferguson's efforts by mentioning that he mirrors Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man (1973) by positioning financial markets as 'the mirror of mankind', magnifying back to us our values, weaknesses and psychoses". However, it criticizes Ferguson's lack of "intellectual history of capital": "George Soros gets more attention than Adam Smith and at a time when we are facing what Eric Hobsbawm has called 'the greatest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s', with Das Kapital a bestseller in Germany, is it credible to devote more space to Goldman Sachs's Jim O'Neill than the works of Karl Marx?" The review concludes that "[i]nstead of an inquiring history, what we are left with is a reverential panorama of neoliberal capitalism. Above all, there is little investigation of the losers in the zero-sum game of money's ascent."[5] The Economist considers the book "rushed" and "uneven" but compliments the timing of the book's release at the height of the financial crisis by saying that "The world needs a book that puts today's crisis into context. It is too late now to warn investors about expensive houses and financiers about cheap credit. But perhaps the past can help make sense of the wreckage of banks, brokers and hedge funds that litters the markets. Looking back may help suggest what to do next. And when the crisis is over and it is time for the great reckoning, the lessons of history should inform the arguments about what must change".[6]




The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the...


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Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises. and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all.


Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it's the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it's the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What's more, he reveals financial history as the essential back story behind all history.


The Introduction (pp. 1-17) prepares readers for what Ferguson perceptively identifies as the core stories attending the evolution of money over the last four millennia. These are many and varied, as one would expect. He is concerned with, inter alia, the ?recurrent hostility? to financial intermediaries and religious minorities associated with them in early-modern European history; the triumph of the Dutch Republic over the Hapsburg Empire, the latter?s possession of silver mines in South America notwithstanding; the spread of paper money, fiat currency and invisible means of payment in the twentieth century; right through to the possible eclipse of American global primacy in the next two decades.


The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World is a 2008 nonfiction book by historian Niall Ferguson. As its title implies, the book covers the rise of money and financial systems (in the West) throughout history. Ferguson argues that some aspect of finance lies behind all great events in history and that financial innovation has been as important to progress as scientific and technological innovation.


"[An] excellent, just in time guide to the history of finance and financial crisis." --The Washington Post "Shrewdly anticipates many aspects of the current financial crisis, which has toppled banks, precipitated gigantic government bailouts and upended global markets." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times"Fascinating." --Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek"Good old-fashioned narrative history, complete with heroes and villains, visionaries and scoundrels." --James Pressley, Bloomberg


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I'd like to thank you all for joining us. During my tenure at the Carnegie Council, I have had the privilege of introducing many speakers. I know you will agree that most of them have been very stimulating, fascinating in what they have to say, and, for the most part, very smart. Even so, there are always a few who, in my opinion, stand out from all the rest. This morning it is my pleasure to welcome back one such individual, one of my favorite recidivists, Niall Ferguson. In the past, Niall has spoken to us about empire, diplomacy, warfare, and globalization. Today he will be discussing a topic on everyone's mind, the financial crisis. His book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, will provide a background and an understanding for many of the critical problems we are now facing on Wall Street and beyond. For anyone who has read his earlier books or has taken the time to read his impressive bio that was handed out to you earlier, there is no denying that you have learned a great deal from this exceptionally formidable historian. The bottom line is that this morning you can bank on knowing that you will leave here with much more knowledge from someone who has never passed the buck in his talks here. Although he may not be made out of money, as you will see, he is worth his weight in gold. When I began writing this introduction, it occurred to me how often the word "money" and references to it not only have entered our everyday vocabulary, but have permeated our culture as well. For example, over and over I kept seeing Joel Grey in Cabaret performing "Money, Money, Money Makes the World Go Around, Makes the World Go Around." When that stopped playing in my head, I heard the character Fagin in Oliver! singing, "In this life, one thing counts, in the bank, large amounts." One thing led to another, and then I began thinking about the Watergate debacle, where the modus operandi was, "Follow the money." Next I had visions of Cuba Gooding, who, in the movie Jerry Maguire, shouted, "Show me the money." Finally, I had enough when I heard Michael Douglas, when playing Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, speak the line that epitomized the late 1980s and has now once again become emblematic of our time: "Greed is good." I could go on and on, but I think you have the idea. As I suspect, many of you in this time of financial crisis can conjure up your own associations to the power and fascination that the word "money" evokes. But before you do, I just wonder how many of you are familiar with this subject's complex history and have thought about the centrality of finance to all elements of human progress. In The Ascent of Money, Niall takes us on a very special historical journey. Although his recent books have been mostly about the decline of empires, financial history is his specialty, as evidenced by his earlier writing, The Cash Nexus and The House of Rothschild. With his signature clarity, verve, and eloquence, this time around he shows us just how vital finance is to the history of the world. He asks, how did we come to live in a world where most money is invisible? Where did money come from, and where did it go? As he charts the rise of money from 5,000 years ago to the numbers we see flickering on the big board on Wall Street, he engages and entertains, as he reminds us just how much money represents a relationship of trust and how the development of money has gone hand in hand with the development of modern societies. He explains the origin and growth of money, banks, stock markets, the exotic growth of the financial instruments and institutions that even bewilder those in the field. With his extraordinary ability to link the past with the present, Niall tells us, if we want money to serve us in the future, it is important to attend to the ways it has served us in the past. I believe a reading of The Ascent of Money can do just that. In these dire financial times, it should be self-evident that we need someone or something that can put today's crisis into context and suggest to us what can be done in the future. In my humblest opinion, that someone is here, with that something that can make all the difference, our speaker, the man with the Midas touch, Niall Ferguson.


Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot. Call it what you like, it matters now more than ever. In The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is the foundation of all human progress and the lifeblood of history. From the cash injection that funded the Italian Renaissance to the stock market bubble that sparked the French Revolution, from the bonds that fuelled Britain's war effort to the Wall Street Crash and today's meltdown, this is the story of boom and bust as it's never been told before. Whether you're scraping by or rolling in it, there's no better time to understand the ascent of money. 041b061a72


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