Who wants to read a book on financial history?
Me, as it turns out. It’s fascinating. Ferguson charts the rise of money and monetary products through various geographies and cultures. Through history there is an increase in stakes, scale and complexity. Hence the title.
I just never thought I’d be that interested in hedges or insurance products for their own sakes, but Ferguson shows their roots in human behaviour and cultural activity. He draws from very human examples: bringing abstract concepts to life through colourful Renaissance Medicis, Scottish widows and a renegade gambler who ends up running the French economy.
If you don’t love non-fiction or history, you’ll have to concentrate though. There’s no plot as such- the story meanders indiscriminatly, following the flow of money.
For me, finance and money is interesting because of the effects it has; particularly on the people who spend it, have it, need it. And that is what Ferguson does so well- the interesting personal historical detail brings cold hard cash alive.
Read: If you want to sound insanely smart at your next corporate networking drinks.