Some years ago, the Harvard based historian Niall Ferguson made a four part documentary for BBC on the history of money. In the series Ferguson follows the development of currency 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.
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.
With the clarity for which he is known, Ferguson explains key financial institutions and concepts by showing where they came from. What is money? What do banks do? What’s the difference between a stock and a bond? Why buy insurance or real estate? And what exactly does a hedge fund do?
Perhaps most important, The Ascent of Money documents how a new financial revolution is propelling the world’s biggest countries, India and China, from poverty to wealth in the space of a single generation. An economic transformation unprecedented in human history. Yet the central lesson of the financial history is that sooner or later every bubble bursts, sooner or later the bearish sellers outnumber the bullish buyers, sooner or later greed flips into fear. And that’s why, whether you’re scraping by or rolling in it, there’s never been a better time to understand the ascent of money.
Now the series is available on the web in one four hour video. See link to program below.