Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it’s the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it’s the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What’s more, he reveals financial history as the essential backstory behind all history.
The evolution of credit and debt was as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization, from ancient Babylon to the silver mines of Bolivia. Banks provided the material basis for the splendors of the Italian Renaissance while the bond market was the decisive factor in conflicts from the Seven Years’ War to the American Civil War.
With the clarity and verve for which he is famed, Ferguson explains why the origins of the French Revolution lie in a stock market bubble caused by a convicted Scots murderer. He shows how financial failure turned Argentina from the world’s sixth richest country into an inflation-ridden basket case – and how a financial revolution is propelling the world’s most populous country from poverty to power in a single generation.
Yet the most important lesson of the financial history is that sooner or later every bubble bursts—sooner or later the bearish sellers outnumber the bullish buyers, sooner or later greed flips into fear. And that’s why, whether you’re scraping by or rolling in it, there’s never been a better time to understand the ascent of money.
Niall Ferguson is one of Britain’s most renowned historians. He is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus and The War of the World, he also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. He has written and presented four highly successful television documentary series for Channel 4: Empire, American Colossus, The War of the World and, most recently, The Ascent of Money.