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The sweeping story of how the greatest minds of the Scientific Revolution applied their new ideas to people, money, and markets - and along the way, invented modern finance.
Longlisted for the Financial Times and Mckinsey Business Book of the Year Award
"An astounding episode from the early days of financial markets that to this day continues to intrigue and perplex historians...narrative history at its best, lively and fresh with new insights." (Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance)
Money for Nothing chronicles the moment when the needs of war, discoveries of natural philosophy, and ambitions of investors collided. It's about how the Scientific Revolution intertwined with finance to set England - and the world - off in an entirely new direction.
At the dawn of the 18th century, England was running out of money due to a prolonged war with France. Parliament tried raising additional funds by selling debt to its citizens, taking in money now with the promise of interest later. It was the first permanent national debt, but still they needed more. They turned to the stock market - a relatively new invention itself - where Isaac Newton's new mathematics of change over time, which he applied to the motions of the planets and the natural world, were fast being applied to the world of money. What kind of future returns could a person expect on an investment today? The Scientific Revolution could help. In the hub of London's stock market - Exchange Alley - the South Sea Company hatched a scheme to turn pieces of the national debt into shares of company stock, and over the spring of 1720 the plan worked brilliantly. Stock prices doubled, doubled again, and then doubled once more, getting everyone in London from tradespeople to the Prince of Wales involved in money mania that consumed the people, press, and pocketbooks of the empire.
Unlike science, though, with its tightly controlled experiments, the financial revolution was subject to trial and error on a grand scale, with dramatic, sometimes devastating consequences for people's lives. With England at war and in need of funds and "stock-jobbers" looking for any opportunity to get in on the action, this new world of finance had the potential to save the nation - but only if it didn't bankrupt it first.
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- Michael Barnett
Financial innovation's first song of the siren.
Anyone interested in economics, finance or economic history will love this book. A well-researched documentation of the first time financial innovation brought a western nation to its knees. I suppose the lessons of history are clear and the errors are doomed to be repeated by those not educating themselves about them.
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Interesting finance-science-history crossover
I think this book succeeds in what the author set out to do. Isaac Newton is a fine pick as a principal character, and he was sio brilliant and his life so eventful it would, I would think, make storytelling relatvely easy. This is good popular history, rich in well-chosen anecdotes moving the story along. I will always buy popular financial history straightaway, if it has any seemingly distinctive angle at all. I still await a deeply technical audiobook about the Bank of England (not to mention the contemporaries in Amsterdam and Paris), but I realize the market is probably microscopic.