Allister Heath

Survival of the Fittest

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 441pp £25 order from our bookshop

Behind every major historical phenomenon and every great civilisation lies a financial secret. Such is the starting point of Niall Ferguson’s wonderfully accessible new book, a perfectly timed primer for the many seeking enlightenment on economic history during these difficult times. 

The rise of ancient Babylon was intimately tied to the evolution of credit and debt; without banks and the bond markets, the splendours of the Italian Renaissance would never have materialised; corporate finance was the foundation of the Dutch and later British empires; the ultra-sophisticated Wall Street financial engineering which has now come crashing down is intractably linked with America’s global primacy. And now, of course, the new-found geopolitical power of many emerging economies, such as China, comes from their embrace of modern finance and creation of huge sovereign wealth funds.

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