Chris's Reviews > The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson
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's review
Dec 02, 2008

really liked it
Read in December, 2008

Ferguson is known as an economic historian yet his last few books were almost purely historical, with only brief passages on the economic aspects of historical events. Here, Ferguson returns to telling about, well, not so much economics as the evolution of finance. First money, then banks, then bonds, then equities, derivatives, insurance, and finally the causes of the recent credit crunch are explained and developed in simple and clear prose. Unlike 'War of the World' - a mammoth retelling of the horror of the 20th century (which I felt had an impersonal and rushed air, as though Ferguson had relied too heavily on his massive, globe-spanning team of researches from a host of universities), 'Ascent of Money' is Ferguson really dealing with what comes naturally to him, as an expert in both the early modern bond markets, quantitative finance, the inner workings of the House of Rothschild (as he should, he wrote the book(s) on them), the hubris behind Long Term Capital Management, and every other complicated aspect of the markets. Also, the endnotes are what really put Ferguson in a class above the rest of the clutter in the 'NEW IN NONFICTION' shelves, because Ferguson really is a world class academic. The footnotes reveal the real depth and breath of Ferguson's learning and research - everything from the Financial Times, personal correspondences, interviews from Democracy Now!, and every major current events book of the last generation, including the new George Soros book which I bought WITH this book - Let's get that straight: Ferguson had read and referenced a book which is so new it was on the same 'NEW IN NONFICTION' shelf near his.
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