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The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World | [Niall Ferguson]

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

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. Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: 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. Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress.
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Audible Editor Reviews

The Ascent of Money is a fast-paced, superbly written, and richly informative excursion through tableaus, themes, scenes, and events that mark the financial history of the world. Included are substantial details on the fiscal meltdown in progress in May 2008, before the book went to press, adding a 21st century variation on the theme of financial collapses detailed in The Ascent of Money. Niall Ferguson has written an exciting panorama of finance that is also very much a book for our times. This is history as global financial drama, of advancing financial development, and the always recurring back stories of financial decline and debacle. It is a book orchestrated as much as written. The Ascent of Money demands a narrator with the range of talents necessary for bringing to voice the rich orchestration of Ferguson's prose. Enter, stage right, Simon Prebble.

With his rich, versatile, and expressive British tenor voice (and his 300+ unabridged narrations in a variety of genres), Prebble is Ascent's perfect narrator. From the first sentence of the Introduction — "Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: call it what you like, money matters." — to the last sentence of the Afterword — "It is not the fault of the mirror if it reflects our blemishes as clearly as our beauty." — Prebble delivers the authentic voice of this financial history. Applying here an altered nuance of phrasing, there the shortest of a shift of timing and slant of intonation, and everywhere present the voice's active tonal center, Prebble drives Ferguson's historical narrative forward. In a print book the reading eye catches, and the mind registers - at places only subliminally - meanings that are too subtle to be directly communicated. By his command and application of stored registries of articulation, expression, and ranges of emotion, Prebble clearly shows that he belongs with the best of narrators who can tap into and reflect and suggest the visual acuity that registers in the mind when reading and narrating. —David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

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.

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: 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 back story behind all history.

Through Ferguson's expert lens familiar historical landmarks appear in a new and sharper financial focus. Suddenly, the civilization of the Renaissance looks very different: a boom in the market for art and architecture made possible when Italian bankers adopted Arabic mathematics. The rise of the Dutch republic is reinterpreted as the triumph of the world's first modern bond market over insolvent Habsburg absolutism. And the origins of the French Revolution are traced back to a stock market bubble caused by a convicted Scot murderer.

©2008 Niall Ferguson; (P)2008 Tantor

What Members Say

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  •  
    Scott La Vista, NE, United States 09-07-12
    Scott La Vista, NE, United States 09-07-12
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    "One of the best "reads" about finance"
    What did you love best about The Ascent of Money?

    I loved how the author was able to explain not just the types of finance and how they evolved but also in history the triumphs and pit-falls of each type. In great detail he is able to explain why certain events happen the way they did and the impact they had on the world. Especially interesting is how new financial engines are able to make profit, and why the go bust (like the housing bubble of 2007).


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, but I am very ADD and hardly anything will every want me inspire me to sit down especially if its a 10+ hour book. I would listen to this book on my way to and from work each day in roughly 30 minutes blocks and I can tell you that the time flew by.


    Any additional comments?

    You have to be okay with at times some dry parts as this is a book on finance, however 85-90% of this book is very interesting. Also you have to be okay with British "odd" pronunciation of words such as hoo-mans for humans, homo-sap-eons for homosapions, and other small vernacular differences.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 07-18-12
    Anand BALTIMORE, MD, United States 07-18-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Excellent book, narration could be better"
    What did you love best about The Ascent of Money?

    Explains the various financial tools such as loans, bonds, insurance and how they came about. One gets a good appreciation of why we have money and the various financial institutions.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Something about the narrators voice and style didn't feel good. I have read 3-4 other books and have never felt like this.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The connections of financial history to popular culture of well known literature - Lending of money for interest by jews in "The Merchant of Venice"; The part in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks' son says "give me back my money!" leading to the bank having to close because of loss of liquidity - are very interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are interested or curious about money and don't know where to start, this book is a great place. Also, if you are interested in history, this book is quite thorough in its research and tells a good story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy Greenwood Lake, New York, United States 06-10-12
    Timothy Greenwood Lake, New York, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Informative, but Narrative Sometimes Confusing"
    What did you like best about The Ascent of Money? What did you like least?

    Provides an introduction to private sector and nation state finance through relevant and interesting historical figures and happenings. Occasionally the historical narrative gets in the way of providing a clear, concise, and overall comprehensive explanation.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chi Riverside, CA, United States 04-28-12
    Chi Riverside, CA, United States 04-28-12 Member Since 2010

    I love history.

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    "A decent chronicle of finance"
    Would you listen to The Ascent of Money again? Why?

    I'd have to, there are quite a bit of information to diggest, so this book might have to be listened to more than once.


    What other book might you compare The Ascent of Money to and why?

    This book might be similar to the Basic Economics and/or The Dumb Money, This book touches on the theme of those books.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    A little slow, but overall good pace as far as nonfictions go.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely not.


    Any additional comments?

    This book touches on the theme of Global Finance, past and present, it can be tedius at times, and actually put me to sleep twice, however it contents good information, and is worth reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William J. Brown 04-22-12
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    "History of Finance"
    What made the experience of listening to The Ascent of Money the most enjoyable?

    It's a fascinating history well told by Ferguson. The narration, while well done, is a little disconcerting in that the narrator's accent is so different from Ferguson's. I wonder how my impressions would change if the author had narrated it himself.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sojournalist 03-16-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting history and future of money"

    I really enjoyed this. First off, Niall Ferguson narrates and has a pleasant Scottish accent. He's energetic, and his read is a lot like hearing a well-done lecture.

    The material is also timely and he ties the history of debt, leverage, and money into the things that are happening today. It's nice to know this isn't a one-off event, that it is merely an echo, perhaps a larger echo (which might not make physical sense, but you get what I mean) of past events.

    I enjoyed listening to this book, and will probably listen to it again in the future. I usually pick up nuances I missed the first time around when I do that, and this is one book it would be easy to do that with.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard D. Martel Newark, DE United States 02-21-12
    Richard D. Martel Newark, DE United States 02-21-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Good Summary of historical monetary events"

    Easy to understand review of historicaly significant monetary events dating from ancient times to modern day financial crisis. Written just before the full collapse and bailout of 2008/2009. Author did not predict severeity of the great recession/collapse as he was finishing the book in the spring/summer of 2008. Also did not emphasize the credit craze/boom of the 21st century leading to the crash that might have prediccted the coming money crunch.
    Rest of book did a good job summarizing other money/credit crisis throughtout the history of the world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 01-04-12
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 01-04-12 Member Since 2013

    Roy-in-Boise

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    "The story of money and man combined"

    The narrator's voice really gives the story a good cadence. The time-line is good and the author only skipped around to make a historical point when giving background.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fredrick L. 01-02-12
    Fredrick L. 01-02-12
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    "Informative book; too many author opinions"
    Any additional comments?

    The author offers an interesting profile, literally, of the history of money. Tracing its historical 'development

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pascal Irving, TX, United States 10-03-11
    Pascal Irving, TX, United States 10-03-11
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    "British Accent and Poor Sound Quality"

    Required too much attention due to the serious British accent going on. I also like to listen to my audiobook in the car through the AM/FM Transmitter and this one was horrible. It was the first book I could not listen to in the car. Haven't got through it due to that.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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