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The Ascent of Money

Narrated by: Hugh Ross
Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (436 ratings)

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Summary

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot: 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 labour. 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.
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©2008 Niall Ferguson (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Car Journey Material

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...

13 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • M
  • 06-06-14

Money, money, money. It's so funny ...

I'm still none the wiser as to how the financial world's complex creations actually work, or how the Masters of The Universe get away with what seems to me to be nothing but gambling, but this book did challenge my general view that the econosphere is basically evil and bad for society in general. The rise of civilisation - seen through the prism of the financial markets - is certainly dependent on the movement of huge amounts of cash, and there's no doubting that our general prosperity and way of life is, to a large degree, due to the evolution of the markets, but what is certain is that the folks at the top of the money pile need a whole lot of regulation and accountability so as to reign in their all-too-human tendencies to get carried away with their schemes. A very interesting and thought-provoking book, well narrated.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Structure and origins of the financial world

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.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Eye Opening

I have really enjoyed this book and find myself re-listening occasionally. If you have an interest in finance and financial matters this is an eye opening listen.

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Sorry just HATED the voice

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

With an audio book it's down to the delivery of the reading. Somehow the narrator just makes me want to switch off - if he's bored and it sounds like he is, then sadly so am I.

Would you ever listen to anything by Niall Ferguson again?

Yes but not with this narrator

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting but not for fun

This book I found really interesting but unless you are into Finance and have a good understanding of basic economics then this will probably not be your thing. It is however an excellent grounding in the history, use and eventual total reliance of all mankind on an abstract concept which we all collectively choose to believe is worth exchanging our goods and services for.



J

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 09-06-19

Excellent, thought-provoking history of finance.

I've really liked some of Fergusson's other works, and this was his best yet in my opinion. He does an excellent job of explaining the evolution of the various pillars of the modern economic world, using plain, but well-written language, and makes a strong argument in support of his contention that finance needs to be taken much more seriously as an explanation for major shifts in historical power and development.

Narrator is very good too, a great fit for the material.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • LC
  • 20-01-19

Very educational account and explanation of money

Gives an in depth account of the development, role and importance of money throughout history, both positive and negative. Explains how it is a vital component of the machinery of development.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Worth Every Penny

This book is worth every penny and there is a story in every one! Highly recommend.

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    5 out of 5 stars

History meets economics, and works very well

When one considers the timing of this work, released during crisis point in the Western Economies, it would be easy to dismiss it as pure opportunism. If anyone has reached such a conclusion, the results would be short selling to say the least.
The Ascent of Money has the readability of a first class historical study, and an economic analysis worthy of Warren Buffett. At first it may seem like a simple chronology of financial innovation and evolution, though it concludes with some rather sharp insight into the current economic crisis.
Ferguson covers many things, from the ancient recording of transactions in Mesopotamia, the coining of money from Hellicarnassus in 600bc, to the exploits of Colonists in the new world whose quest for Gold and Silver ultimately drove down their own currencies. The evolution of modern banking is perhaps the most important examination, learning how it began in Italy, how it progressed in the Netherland, and the various incarnations it has taken today.
Of interesting note is the Dutch East India Company, the first publicly traded company, which finally makes sense of how the whole process of buying and selling shares originated.
Even if one is an Economics Graduate (which I am not) this book may shed new light on the origin of our modern economic institutions and processes. If one lacks a higher education in Economics (such as myself) then this will no doubt help one make sense of all those words you don't understand in your typical issue of the Economist, but are afraid to ask.
Ferguson has delivered a timely, thoughtful, and highly readable book. Recommended to all, regardless of your grounding in Economics.
The narration provides an academic, almost classical actor like flair, but the only snag are the overly long pauses and the different voices for certain dialogues, but not a major flaw.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Manpreet
  • 20-12-09

Clears so many part of the financial puzzle

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.