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This book ranks in my library among The Shield of Achilles and Why Nations Fail.
The book unravels in a fascinating & simple manner the intircacies of today's financial world. Its specially helpful for the non financial guys but will help people with financial knowledge to appreicate the history of financial products. A very good listen/read overall.
As I work in a bank for my day job, I was dreading listening to this in the journey to & from work as I thought it would feel like an extension of my job, or like extra curricular revision of a dry, boring subject.
Fortunately it turned out to be a fascinatingly insightful tale of all things financial, with a compelling (if slightly posh narrator) & a rich collection of stories & anecdotes to illustrate each of its chapters.
Covering all aspects of finance, from notes & coin through to bonds & insurance, I found it captivating & educational in equal measure. Of the stories, the most interesting ones were about the founding of the bond market in the ever-feuding principalities of Renaissance Italy and also the ones concerning the foundation of companies (including an explanation of how they began in 17th 18th Century Holland, through to the collapse of Enron).
Although it may seem subjects such as coinage & insurance would be dreadfully dull, somehow they made exciting by stories from history & modern times.
And, as someone who works in the finance industry, I would thoroughly recommend this to expert & financial illiterate alike, as it covers the topic of money in a thorough, but simple way.
If the evidence of our burgeoning budget deficit is anything to go by, then people in the country could do with listening to this on the way to work...
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Niall Ferguson claims to want to make finance accessible and comprehensible to the masses. That would include the 50% of the population who don't have a maths GCSE or O'Level, and have now been put in total control of their own pensions. In this ambition I'm sure he must fail, as the book is deep and wide-ranging, and probably does require a maths O'level to follow it comfortably. However, if you have the interest and motivation to follow 500 years and 350 pages of financial evolution, the book is a revelation, and a pleasure.
The book is organised around the main structures of the financial industry, why they came about and how they evolved: Banking and Money; the Bond Market; Joint Stock Companies and Stock Market; Insurance; the Property Market/mortgages and asset backed securities. Finally he moves on to the current period and the relationship between China and America. This last section was weaker and more muddled.
To me the key revelation was how 'Capital', meaning things like bonds or shares in a company, really create another 'world' parallel to the 'property' we are all so obsessed with in the UK. When an aristocratic Land Owner, looked down his nose at a parvenu 'Rentier' he was expressing his dislike for a new order based on 'Das Kapital'. At some level I knew that the means of production were Land, Capital and Labour, but I didn't really understand this. You should read the book to see what I mean.
The fact that the book was written in 2008 does not make it obsolete (as you might fear). It is more of a history than current affairs, and by the time the book was written the writing was already on the wall for the current financial crisis.
Narration. I felt it was too 'Jackanory', as if reading a children's book. I would have liked it read in a rich Adam Smith burr, but that is just me. Seriously, non-fiction readers should not try to do accents. Hugh Ross doing George Soros (pigeon-hungarian-jew) was painful to the ear.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful