The Ascent of Money Book Summary - The Ascent of Money Book explained in key points
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The Ascent of Money summary

A Financial History of the World

4.3 (188 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson explores the history of finances and the role they play in modern society. It analyzes the impact of money on everyday life, and how various financial systems have shaped the world we live in today.

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    The Ascent of Money
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    The financial system is evolutionary in nature.

    Charles Darwin discovered that life evolved through a process known as natural selection. Life forms most suited to their environments prospered, whilst those less successful died out.

    In most environments there are only enough resources to support a limited amount of life. The fight for these resources is vicious, as failure will often result in extinction.

    The life forms which were most prosperous were able to spread their genes through reproduction and thus multiply in number, eventually taking the place of the declining species.

    The process is continuous; species are always dying out and being replaced by new species. Usually these changes are localized to small environments, but sometimes events happen that cause extinctions on a large scale.

    For example, 64 million years ago a meteor wiped out almost all life on earth, including most dinosaurs. In situations like this, new species will grow in the spaces left by the extinct ones, just as mammals took the place of dinosaurs after the meteor disaster.

    The financial system evolves in a similar way, through market selection: the financial equivalent of natural selection. The financial world is constantly changing through new techniques and innovations in the same way the natural world constantly evolves. The firms that adapt to these new situations grow and prosper and are imitated by others. This is the financial equivalent of gene reproduction. 

    On the other hand, firms that cling to outdated practices and fail to produce sufficient returns are doomed to extinction.

    Some events, like the financial collapses of 1929 and 2008, lead to a mass extinction of financial firms and practices. In situations like this, space is created for new types of financial firms and practices to spring up.  

    The financial system is evolutionary in nature.

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    What is The Ascent of Money about?

    The Ascent of Money is an explanation of how different historical events led to the development of the current financial system.

    It aims to show how, despite its proneness to crises and inequality, the financial system and money itself are drivers of human history and progress.

    The Ascent of Money Review

    The Ascent of Money (2008) by Niall Ferguson sheds light on the history of money and its impact on our society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores the complex relationship between money and power throughout history, helping readers understand the financial world's intricacies.
    • Offers insightful analysis of financial crises, from the tulip mania to the subprime mortgage crisis, helping readers grasp the causes and consequences of these events.
    • Provides fascinating anecdotes and stories about the individuals who shaped the financial systems we have today, making the book an engaging and enlightening read.

    Who should read The Ascent of Money?

    • Anyone who wants to understand the workings of the financial system
    • People who want to understand why financial crises happen
    • Anyone who wants to know why money is so powerful

    About the Author

    Niall Ferguson is one of Britain’s most renowned historians. He has worked for numerous institutions in Britain and the USA, with a focus primarily on international and economic history.

    In addition to his academic career, he is also known as a commentator and writer for numerous newspapers and magazines. He has written and presented various television documentary series, including a television adaptation of the Ascent of Money.

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    The Ascent of Money FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Ascent of Money?

    The main message of The Ascent of Money is to understand the role of money in shaping history and society.

    How long does it take to read The Ascent of Money?

    The reading time for The Ascent of Money varies, but it typically takes several hours to read. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Ascent of Money a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Ascent of Money is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into the history and impact of money. Recommended for those interested in economics.

    Who is the author of The Ascent of Money?

    The author of The Ascent of Money is Niall Ferguson.

    What to read after The Ascent of Money?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Ascent of Money, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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