A useful introduction to the world of drachmas, dinars and dollars.




From prolific historian Ferguson (History/Harvard Univ.; The War of the World, 2006, etc.), a sweeping survey of money and its many instruments.

Some years ago, writes Ferguson, a hitherto unknown tribe appeared at the edge of the Amazonian rainforest. The people had subsisted for generations on hunting and gathering. They had no conception of money; not surprisingly, Ferguson adds, they had no concept of futurity, either. Now they live near a city, subsisting on food brought by strangers with no demand for anything in return. Shedding the hunting-and-gathering lifestyle was a first step toward the larger prosperity of humankind, Ferguson suggests—contra Marshall Sahlins’s Stone Age Economics (1974)—while other instruments compelled us farther along the evolutionary path. One was the development of credit and debt, “as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization, from ancient Babylon to present-day Hong Kong.” Ferguson takes a view similar to that of Jacob Bronowski (the title being homage to The Ascent of Man), and he offers plenty of nuts-and-bolts information. Every day, $2 trillion changes hands, and every single second of the day someone is selling something to someone else, a far more congenial use of time and energy than war, counting coup and other pastimes of our tribe writ large. War, after all, is a leading cause of inflation, one of the constant enemies in Ferguson’s pages; another is bad faith, which Ferguson attends to in a nicely scathing exegesis of the Enron affair. The author is a fluent interpreter, whether writing of the origins of the hedge fund, the workings of international trade deficits or the securitization of home mortgages—the last of which is the cause of so much current worry. He avoids the aridity of economics without skimping on details, offering lots of bang for the buck.

A useful introduction to the world of drachmas, dinars and dollars.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-192-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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