Dennis O'Brien'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
Jan 26, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2010 — I own a copy

For those of us who never took an economics course in college this is a great book. Its scope seems overly ambitious (a history of the world as told through money and finance), but it in fact tells exactly that story, and while there are some necessarily broad strokes at times, the book does not shy away from getting into the gritty details when necessary. It certainly demands some attentive reading when it delves into some of the more complicated concepts of the late 20th century financial abstractions.

Though he doesn't belabor the point (and it might deserve belaboring) you can't help but be struck by lockstep development of finance to augment military conquest. It seems every innovation in finance has served to expand the scope of war. Maybe I'm just naive.

There are other stories that were missing from this book that I wish had been addressed. It focuses on the current system of finance and banking but tells the history of the current system. I wanted more historical coverage of other systems of money and lending that got drowned out by the current system over the centuries. Maybe that would have been a different book altogether, but as it is, his story reads as if money, banking and finance developed in Europe while the rest of the world had no concept of these things.
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