Top positive review
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Fascinating, if a little unfocused
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.