Skip to main content


The Ascent and Descent of Money

In this final talk of a three-part series on the global economy, Niall Ferguson places the credit meltdown and current economic crisis in historical perspective. He argues that the evolution of credit and debt was critical to the rise of civilization -- from ancient Babylon to the silver mines of Bolivia. And he points to the role of banks in financing the splendors of the Italian Renaissance and the decisive role of the bond market in conflicts from the Seven Years' War to the American Civil War. Today's difficulties, Ferguson argues, fit into this long-term development of the global economy.

Niall Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A prolific commentator on contemporary politics and economics, Ferguson writes regularly for the British and American press. Among his many notable books are The War of the World, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power and Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. His latest book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.


Recorded Monday, May 18, 2009 at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.