Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (2016) by William N Goetzmann is a very impressive book that looks at how finance has evolved through history. The book does a great job in explaining how important financial developments have been for the development of the world.
The book is broken into sections that look at ancient Mesopotamian finance, ancient Greek finance, Roman finance, Chinese finance, the the changes to modern finance in Europe that helped Europe explore and dominate the world and how modern finance has become global.
Goetzmann is a professor of finance and management studies at Yale and is an expert on the history of finance.
The sections on the ancient world show how important the development of finance was to the development of math and how important it was for cities and empires to employ finance. It was startling to discover that 90% of the records recovered from some Mesopotamian cities were financial records.
The sections on Roman and Greek finance showed how large cities could use finance to get their food supplies and what sort of laws were required. The section on Chinese finance is also remarkable and shows how Chinese rulers used coins and then paper money.
The section on the development of European financial developments from the twelfth century onward is fantastic. Making the point that Hindu-Arabic numerals were popularised in the Liber Abaci is very much worthwhile. The trading of bills of exchange, then the creation of companies and stock market booms and bubble is very well explained.
The weakest part of the book is the modern section where oddly Marx and Ayn Rand’s contribution to finance is pondered. While Marx is certainly an important figure in history it’s odd to have in the book. The book also has quite a bit on Keynes. Keynes is more justified but still it’s somewhat odd.
Overall the book is fantastic though. It really makes the reader ponder just how much finance has helped to develop the world.