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on 4 November 2003
In this monumental work, Professor Niall Ferguson traces the evolution of and relationship between money, the state and war. Beginning with a section on taxes (the earliest form of large-scale finance), the book continues with a history of bonds, currency and finance. Then, there is a great deal of information on how these financial institutions have influenced society. And, most importantly, the final chapters of the book look at money and finance on a global scale, analyzing everything including stock "bubbles", gold and military success and failure. This book was written in September 2000, which means that much of the author's data is right up-to-date!
The above description of this book does not begin to do justice to it. The author's knowledge is obviously encyclopedic, and this book covers a vast multitude of subjects relating to money and power. Indeed, my one complaint against this book is that, at times, does seem to meander from subject to subject, seeming to lose track of the point. However, that said, this is a fascinating book, one well worth taking the time to read.
As an aside, I must say that the author does seem to severely undermine Paul Kennedy's (author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers) concept of "imperial overstretch." Instead he raises up the possibility that countries have experienced "understretch" leading them into costly later wars (such as the British Empire before World War I), and that America may be understretching right now.
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on 22 June 2003
The book's scope is much wider than its title would imply. The author analyzes why some regimes have been more successful than others during past 300 years. The book emphasizes importance of four institutions as the bases of financial strength (and long-term success) of the state:
- a tax-collecting bureaucracy
- a representative parliament
- a national debt
- a central bank

There is lot of intellectual gymnastics with figures and facts in the middle of the book that test your determination to go on. Those who persevere get rewarded with the interesting discussion in the end of the book about defense expenses as a insurance policy for the state and a need for a superpower policeman for the free world in order to make peace and prosperity to last.

Read and find out if you agree with the conclusions of the author.
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on 2 September 2014
Really interesting. Mr Ferguson is surely the best historian of our times.
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It would be a mistake to emphasize the word "cash" in this book's ambivalent title without giving equal weight to the word that follows, "nexus." A nexus is the bond between two disparate things and, indeed, this is a book about the intersection of power and money. Its thesis, to the frustration of economic determinists everywhere, is that while money matters, other things matter more, at least when it comes to the cultural chessboard of international politics. One might quibble that author Niall Ferguson underemphasizes the extent to which competition for economically vital scarce resources leads to war. The other caveat is that he refers to the U.S.'s reluctance to go to war with a pre-Iraq state of mind. Yet, the author is an accomplished historian who capably supports his arguments. He manages overall to portray economic history in all its rich nuance, detail and complexity. His premise that war, not economics or politics, is the great engine that has driven the evolution of the modern welfare state is as enlightening as it is chilling. We highly recommend this book to the lay reader with a developed interest in history, politics and, especially, economics. However, a warning is in order: Those who only read the headlines may find this just a little too deep.
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on 28 February 2001
Overall an excellent book that look at the link of bond prices democracy, politics and a nation-states power. It is very informative and contains alot of data simply set out; especially useful if you just happening to be doing a degree at the time.
My favourite aspect of this book is the completely fresh look ( even if I don't agree with all of it ) it takes at national power rather than rehashing old books with little, if anything, new to say.
Saying that the book at times does drift off losing all sense of structure especially in the middle covering the links between political parties and various lobby groups.
This does not stop being easy to read and comprehend while still being extremely informative.
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on 28 January 2017
I think this was Niall Ferguson's first book. His more recent books (e.g The Ascent of Money, and Civilization) show the skill he has developed at taking complex concepts and explaining them in a way that suits the general reader rather than the specialist student (no doubt helped by the need to create television scripts from the same material).

Unfortunately this earlier work shows just how far he has come. If you're not a student of economic history (I'm not) then you'll probably find this hard going. Sometimes the book will explain the workings of a financial instrument reasonably well before discussing its impact on history but more often it won't, so you're left knowing that the issuing of "consols" for example had a particular effect on UK finance but it's not explained why - and you'll only get given a hazy idea of what "consols" actually are.

I have - just about - enjoyed reading the book (over many weeks!) and found some of the arguments interesting and challenging but if you're not already familiar with the ground covered you're unlikely to find this a useful primer.
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on 13 July 2011
Why yes, that is Eric Hobsbawm on the cover calling this book "intelligent, ambitiou, controversial", certianly one of the unlikliest people to endorse a Niall Ferguson book.

I would reccomend this book also but would add a couple pieces of advice - take it slowly and hold your tongue (or whatever the equivilent is in our brains that prematurely blurts out when we disagree) until Ferguson has presented his evidence and theory. For most of this book you will have your own theories and views challenged and it will happen using mostly the same evidence that you would use to back up your own and leave you with a cognative dissonance that is always healthy in an academic.

The best point the book makes is the repudiation of the "feelgood factor" in politics - that a good economy means the incumbent wins elections. This is a welcome piece of research to be presented to the public at large - finally we can ignore 'The Economist' and their terrible form at picking winners.

after reading this you will come away with a book that is quotable for most events in the past 300 years. I would reccomend this more than Ferguson's Civilization: The Six Ways the West Beat the Rest: The West and the Rest if you already have a solid grounding in the study of history.

However if you are a general reader, consider the authors The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World or the excellent Rondo and Cameron's A Concise Economic History of the World: From Paleolithic Times to the Present before attempting to use the ideas contained in this book.
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on 12 December 2014
Cash nexus is a more demanding read than the Ascent of Money by the same Prof. Niall Ferguson.
Nevertheless, go for it!
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on 30 March 2006
I purchased this book on the basis of the on-line reviews anticipating a study of financial history.
Whilst it is reasonable on the history of currency, banking, and international finance it drifts off badly into loose discussions of UK politics, democracy and development, and the rise of the US economy. None of this material is particularly convincing and is based far too much on citations.
Overall I found it a frustrating read. There is a too much of a feeling that the author is a moderator in a debate which he doesn't fully understand.
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on 3 November 2014
Worked very well
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