Customer Reviews


100 Reviews
5 star:
 (49)
4 star:
 (27)
3 star:
 (18)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how we got to where we are; so, how do we get out of here?
Niall Ferguson again here brings us a history that is informative, entertaining and sobering. Being published in the midst of a global economic meltdown, for a book such as this, is a mixed blessing, as a step too far on the bearish side may make the author look like a doommonger, whilst being even slightly bullish might look blinkered. Ferguson, though, seems to manage...
Published on 28 Dec 2008 by Steve Keen

versus
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing....
When I was reading this book I couldn't help wishing that he would have gone deeper into the system of the ancient worlds, which only got scratched on the surface. He had some interresting cases in the book, but often they were coloured by the author's own attitude towards the subject which I find rather unfortunate. Therefore I would only recommend this book, if your...
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by Mads Graff Lorenzen


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how we got to where we are; so, how do we get out of here?, 28 Dec 2008
By 
Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
Niall Ferguson again here brings us a history that is informative, entertaining and sobering. Being published in the midst of a global economic meltdown, for a book such as this, is a mixed blessing, as a step too far on the bearish side may make the author look like a doommonger, whilst being even slightly bullish might look blinkered. Ferguson, though, seems to manage to pull it off, though that equally is a spot evaluation. However, though it's clear where his loyalties lie in the pro/anti capitalism debate, the balance of the narrative tends nevertheless towards the various shocks delivered to the system rather than towards the prosperity delivered, albeit still strictly speaking to a relative minority of humanity, by markets and their lubricant, money.

As it turned out, some of the ground covered was familiar territory to me, bringing together strands of other books I've read recently, including Findlay and O'Rourke's Power And Plenty, Bentley's A Book Of Numbers, Schama's The American Future and even Lonely Planet Andalucia.

But some of it was new. He gives the origins of ghetto (a geto was a casting, and the original ghetto was in Venice's foundry district); explains that a consol gets its name from "consolidated fund"; and confirms that "dollar" comes from the German "thaler", on which the Spanish based the piece of eight, the world's first truly global currency.

Ferguson is also adept at telling stories: his account of the First Opium War, for example, is probably the clearest I've come across, and in the chapter on housing there is an excellent explanation of how the development of securitisation by Salomons ultimately led to the sub-prime meltdown.

He's not always right. In a description of segregation in Detroit and the 1967 riots he describes Aretha Franklin as a Motown star, which she almost, but never quite, was. And the final chapter begins with speculation that the rest of the world has decoupled from the United States economically. Unfortunately time has not been kind to this notion, with only Brazil, it appears, unaffected so far (December 2008), oil down by over $100 a barrel from its mid-08 peak, and even China's growth looking very shaky. But if there are any signs that "His pages are hot with proof-stage tyremarks", as one newspaper review alleged, then Ferguson is not alone in his revisionism: after all, even the German finance minister got it wrong. And in mitigation, this is the man who ended a previous television series (Colossus) warning that the United States was "heading for a credit crunch".

This is not, to be sure, a technical book. Readers seeking more detail of some of the principles described should go to the likes of Brealey and Myers's Principles of Corporate Finance. However, Ferguson more than succeeds in achieving his objective of providing a foundation of financial awareness for the general reader, providing plenty of food for thought. Amongst the morsels on offer: in better days for Argentina, the other Harrods was in Buenos Aires; the birth of stock markets was in 17th Century Netherlands, a country now often reduced to two letters in "Benelux"; and he ultimately really hits the button marked Panic by reminding us of the consequences of al-Qaeda's effecting a nuclear strike, of a further Katrina-like event, or of inundation courtesy of global warming.

So, great book, and so much for the past, but what of the future? Ferguson describes himself as a "liberal fundamentalist", and certainly descriptions of him as "rightwing" look overdone. Nevertheless, there seems to be a faith implicit that capitalism can cure itself, counter to the standard Marxist analysis of a bankrupt and inevitably doomed system. So where, as Larry Elliott has asked, is the intellectually endorsed social democratic alternative? It is implicit, ironically, in the response of the US government, but the measures being taken by that and several other governments has the appearance of a huge geoeconomic experiment unsupported by any clear theory other than it is the opposite of what was done in the 1930s. What is needed is a Keynes for the noughties. I'm looking forward to reading Krugman's new work to see if that is where the gap is filled.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history of finance - a page turner - who'd have predicted that!, 30 Jan 2009
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
This is an excellent broad history of our financial system - covering the development of bond & stock markets, our obsession with property as an investment and more. What makes this a 5 star read is linking historical events to our current predicament - both as examples of how things how gone wrong before and as direct causes of the latest credit crunch. Of course given it's breadth it can only touch on many topics, but for those areas where I have read more fulsome accounts (such as Enron, LTCM) I found his summaries to be very pertinent.

The accounts of various bubbles and crashes are interesting and somewhat comforting - the finance world seems to be phoenix-like in its ability to collapse and re-generate so maybe we are not without hope, however in his description of 'Chimerica' you do wonder if we are at the beginning of a new age, the transfer of power to a new owner...too early to say perhaps?

What is less comforting are the parallels he draws with pre-WW1 complacency that there could never be a global war because countries were too interdependent financially for this to be in anyone's interests, it's a chilling thought as he describes how future historians could look back and see the root causes today, just as current historians do today for WW1.

Overall I'd say this is a great introduction to some complex topics, and even where the explanations were a bit mind-boggling (still don't get interest rate swaps!) this doesn't detract from the flow of the story. Two things would be a great addition to this book - a glossary of some of the financial terms and a selected bibliography for further reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Review of Financial History, 13 Jan 2009
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
This book accompanied the Channel Four television series of the same name, and apart from a few areas where more detail is given, sticks very closely to the series. Ferguson covers very early days of using money and then gets going on money lending (it was against the principles of the Catholic Church) and hence carried out by Jews in the first ghetto (or foundry) in Venice. He progresses to bonds and the fortunes generated by Nathan Rothschild betting against government bonds after the defeat of Napoleon. Then stocks or shares are considered and the early problems with schemes that resulted in investment 'bubbles', the leading role of the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company, the colossal swindles of John Law running a pyramid scheme in France with the Mississippi Company and the foundation of New Orleans. The failure of insurance companies in really big disasters and the growth of national insurance schemes. It is here that the role of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys and the very successful Chilean system of private managed state pension and insurance schemes are described, all under the rule of President Pinochet. This is a system of save-as-you-go rather than pay-as-you-go used in Western European democracies. The risk of investing in property is discussed, generally with a view to showing that there is more risk than supposed, an argument that I think is rather overdone especially for a country like Britain that has a net immigration surplus and, therefore, a built in pressure on housing. Finally the present inter-relationship between American borrowing and Chinese lending is reviewed and their apparent interdependence suggested. On the whole the book is entertaining and has something of a 'Gee Whiz' feel about it. It is not a financial textbook and is not the place to find convincing explanations for some of his assertions, indeed a few explanations are somewhat muddled.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 27 Feb 2010
By 
A. Crabtree (London, GB) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a very enjoyable, intelligent book; excellent value for its insight. It is a popular history, covering a great deal and as such, a very fine one.

Sometimes I wonder whether we really need shares and credit (and all the futures, options and so on.) That we do is shown with the history of the Dutch East India Company - a fascinating account of the first joint stock company that shows just how useful shares and credit (and their tradability) are in a joint human enterprise; leading into the next step, wherein investors get carried away, all described in the history of John Law and the Mississippi Bubble.

When reading about the current crisis and possible regulatory and policy changes, there is often talk about "counter-cyclical" regulation and banks accruing capital during good times. How does one know "good times", when a boom is only recognised afterwards? The bubbles chapter of Money introduces Displacement/Euphoria/Mania/Distress/Revulsion and neatly compares stock market bubbles through history, showing how they are forgetten by the time of the next one.

This is a popular history traversing the major developments in money and finance. It would be wrong to criticise it for lack of detail. In fact some of its short explanations are better than whole books. In particular the few pages on the early Hedge Fund LTCM's collapse are a much better and clearer explanation than in the tedious "When Genius Failed". The warning for this part - powerful mathematics is invalid with over-simple assumptions - is open-ended. Lots of Hedge Funds are doing more and quicker electronic trading (let them do so, as long as they can't crash the banks that fund them.)

As other reviewers point out, you can see the author's political position. It is a well-reasoned one - don't fly off the handle at the Chilean economic history; read it carefully: it is substantially about about an economic policy and its successes, detail given. If you think Ferguson is too straightforwardly monetarist there, then the Argentinian history contradicts that: inflation as a political phenomenon, not monetary.

The final chapter discusses competition and innovation in finance. Stating Schumpeter's original description of Creative Destruction, the pace of bankruptcy and renewal is made clear. Although expressed in the attractive language of natural selection, the book concludes with Schumpeter's warning not to over-regulate and save the infirm company. I felt the author was too optimistic in his implication that this process will keep working well - think of the big banks held up by the British and US taxpayer; what will become of them? They seem to me to be almost like the British lame duck state enterprises of the 70s, but where those industries representatives (Trades Unionists) were almost like pantomime villains, our new vested interests seem less recognisable. J K Galbraith (History of Economics) has more to say about the sly, monopolistic enterprise, masquerading as free enterprise.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an interesting book, 15 Nov 2009
By 
Mariusz Skonieczny "Author" (classicvalueinvestors com) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I thought that this book was going to be boring and dry especially because I never really liked history that much. However, I enjoyed reading it and found it educational. We all use money, but never think too much about it. Money is just an idea. It is something that we believe has value. This is a very good book explaining the origins of money and all the financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, insurance, and home mortgages. I like the explanation of how these financial innovations helped our economies grow and improved our standard of living.

Listening to economists today, we don't get this type of explanation. Very few of them understand the history behind money and financial instruments. If they did, they would understand that the current financial crisis and Ponzi schemes are nothing new. I want to thank the author for doing writing this book. I don't think I will ever think of money the same way again.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, 13 April 2009
By 
A. Lawton (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
This is one of the best books I have read so far this year. It is well-written and interesting and I felt no need to have seen the TV series (I didn't). The only reason for giving it four stars rather than five is that his criticism of those responsible for what has happened recently was somewhat veiled and a bit politically correct. That said, I suppose a lot of it was written before the full picture of the calamity currently afflicting us had emerged. Nevertheless, I learnt a few things and enjoyed it at the same time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


164 of 192 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comments by Michael Calum Jacques, author of '1st Century Radical'., 21 Nov 2008
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
The title of this book makes quite a claim. Niall Ferguson is a Harvard University professor from the UK, who produced a volume on the story of the Rothschild financial dynasty in the late 1990s, The book certainly has a number of interesting features e.g. its summary of recent events both precipitating and within the housing market 'crisis' and international commercial relationships between superpowers. Nevertheless, the impression is that the work - fascinating though it is in parts - may just have been a little bit 'scraped together', somewhat hurried.

Given the lightning blitz which has rocked all corners, streets and avenues of the globe's financial institutions, this is perhaps understandable and even forgivable, almost. Recent news bulletins have featured housing crises, bank runs and a possible recession looming forbiddingly. Given that he presumably had only human resources at his disposal, the author may well have reached for a crystal ball as a source of greater predictability than the global market indicators have been able to offer any of us, himself included, of late.

Returning to our initial point, viz. the sheer scope this work claims to encompass, this reviewer particularly appreciated Ferguson's sweep through the civilisations of the past in this Financial History of the World; thus the Inca's spurning of gold and silver as money, the pre-Christian Mesopotamian/Babylonian credit notes in the form of clay tablets and many more indicators of the development of, and various civilisations' attitudes towards, money and finance in general. Yet Ferguson omits to make, as far as this reviewer can see, any reference to the light which spectral analysis technology (through its illumination of discarded domestic papyri texts) has thrown on the surprising wealth of certain women within the ancient world.

Ferguson's philosophy, which he keeps hidden up his sleeve for most of the book, proposes that finance evolves through natural selection. He uses this hypothesis to account for the appearance and denigration of new financial models which respond to new demands made by various societies. That analysis may risk a degree of oversimplification, but that will be variously assessed by the background, training, and disposition of the reader. All that being said, this is a challenging and a stimulating read.

Michael Calum Jacques
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, descent popular history, 23 Dec 2010
By 
S Gleadall (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Popular history must inform and entertain, and this volume does both. The pace is brisk and the demarcation of the subject matter, for example into sovereign debt, equities, home ownership, welfare states etc. provides momentum and facilitates better recall. In other words, it prevents boredom setting in and you remember what you've read more than is often the case with history books (speaking for myself of course!).

I think this works well as a very broad-brush history of money and finance.

S Gleadall - author of The Metaphysics of Markets

The Metaphysics of Markets
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ascent of Money, 1 Feb 2009
By 
Philip Kanal (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Hardcover)
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

Fascinating insight into the highs and lows of the world of finance which affects us all. Addictive reading written in a language understood by even the layman!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to a complex topic..., 19 Oct 2014
By 
os - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
As a brief history of money, trade and risk management this book does its job in an entertaining, informative and well-structured fashion. So for the budding Economist or intrepid casual reader this book is a worthwhile investment in time and money.

Money and the development civil society are closely linked. Trade builds relationships, encourages enterprise, innovation and risk taking. But without a reliable means of exchange the opportunities for trade are restricted and so are the opportunities for wealth creation. Hence the need for money and near-money assets. In a related way trade involves a large number of collective arrangements and understandings in order to ward off the ill effects of unexpected events. Trade requires funding, insurance and protection against unstable current and future prices. In this way markets have evolved from promoting small local two -way exchanges to highly complex global networks where physical goods, capital movements and a wide variety of contractual arrangements such as futures and short selling are undertaken on a massive scale. Ferguson tells us the story in convincing and colourful detail.

In many ways the book is about risk. The development of financial markets is about understanding risk and uncertainty. Financial markets are not just about providing funds to borrowers and returns to lenders. They have developed over time as entities that feed upon themselves. Hence the so-called disconnect between financial markets and the `real' economy. Players in financial markets look to find where assets (currencies / shares/ commodities) have been over or under priced and seek through a variety of means to turn their intuitions into profit. The problem of course is that the way is open to `insider' activity, rigging of markets and other corrupt practices, let alone the effects of panic selling and herd-like buying behaviours. So financial markets are inherently unstable and this is where the wider economy gets to suffer or gain as a result.

Ferguson is good on the historical development of trade, the China/America relationship and the Sub-Prime melt-down. He seems to be convinced that the growth of financial markets and their shadowy counterparts is generally a good thing. He does not give sufficient credence to the idea that financial markets have to operate with some degree of transparency and self-control if they are to avoid collapse. Yet how is this possible without tighter regulation from government and international bodies, given that market players of just about every stripe naturally revel in the opportunity to profit regardless of consequences to third parties?

Mr Ferguson is somewhat glib about the role of American finance in South America,the death of President and Allende in Chile in 1973 and the repression that followed. This for me is a definite drawback of this book. Worshipping the power of markets and money at once understandable but to forget any sort of moral considerations is a short route to further corruption and misery with the poor suffering as always the most.

I would have liked a little more on inflation / deflation and the effects there of. Finally, I would like the author to give some insight into how financial markets could, if not should be regulated. Financial markets are vital for such things as pensions, linking savers with borrowers, supporting growth and business investment as well as funding government expenditures. Yet they need to be underwritten in some capacity by government and the taxpayer, a fact that market participants seem too often think is an irrelevant consideration resulting in the most horrendous outcomes at fairly regular intervals.

So, a good book and well worth a read despite my reservations.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 210 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson (Hardcover - 30 Oct 2008)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews