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THE HISTORY OF MONEY

THE STRUGGLE OVER MONEY FROM SANDSTONE TO CYBERSPACE

An engagingly digressive audit of the mediums of exchange humankind has used and abused down through the years, from anthropologist Weatherford (Savages and Civilization, 1994, etc.). Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author divides the history of money into three distinct stages. The first dates back nearly three millennia to the creation of coins in ancient Lydia (modern Turkey), whose best-known ruler, Croesus, has become a byword for affluence. The monetary market system spawned by the invention of coins, which eliminated the need to weigh gold for every transaction, eventually spread around the world, in the process destroying great empires and fostering development of a democratic and prosperous ancient Greek civilization. The Renaissance proved another turning point, bringing with it banks, paper money, and allied innovations that put paid to feudalism, opened the way for industrial capitalism, and financed the art and scholarship of the era. On the eve of the 21st century, according to Weatherford, the Global Village is about to enter an era of electronic money, which promises to produce socioeconomic, political, and cultural changes every bit as convulsive as those that racked earlier epochs. Which is not to say that the author deals in either doom or gloom. He simply offers a guided tour of the past and provides plausible scenarios for the future. Weatherford also studs his accessible text with scholarly delights that afford welcome respites from straightforward accounts of ATMs, currency speculation, the gold standard, hyperinflation, near money (food stamps, for example), and rates of exchange. Cases in point range from an appreciation of Edward Bellamy's prediction of credit cards in his utopian novel Looking Backward (1888) through a discussion of the ways in which L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) made an allegorical case for bimetallism. An entertaining, on-the-money introduction to precisely what makes the world go 'round. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-59980-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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