Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of finance, from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance.
Money, says the song, makes the world go round. It can also threaten to stop it. Thus, a book that explains the origin and growth of money, banks, stock markets, and the exotic growth of the financial instruments and institutions that often bewilder even those who live by them, is a valuable thing. Despite the fact that Niall Ferguson finished writing The Ascent of Money in the late spring of 2008, while the international financial crisis was still gathering momentum, this is a highly relevant book. Not the least of its merits is that Ferguson shows how alert he was to the possibilities for disaster inherent in the loose credit and securitization of bad debt from which so much money was made before the crisis unfolded. His was an alertness made possible by a grasp of history; Ferguson thereby vindicates the utility as well as the beauty of his craft.