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The History of Money


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About the Author

Jack Weatherford is the New York Times bestselling author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, and The History of Money, among other acclaimed books. A specialist in tribal peoples, he was for many years a professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota and now divides his time between the United States and Mongolia.


Weatherford brings a cultural anthropologist's wide-angled perspective to this illuminating investigation of money's role in shaping human affairs. He identifies three great mutations in the story of money. The first began with the invention of coins in the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia 3000 years ago, sparking a monetary revolution that underpinned classical Greek and Roman civilizations. Next, family-owned, credit-giving banks of Renaissance Italy ushered in the modern world capitalist system, which swept away feudalism and abetted the expansion of European hegemony to the Americas. In the third major transition, predicts Weatherford (Savages and Civilization), the current age of paper money will give way to an era of cybermoney, or electronic cash, in which transactions are conducted via the Internet and by other forms of electronic transfer. Full of forgotten lore and provocative opinions (e.g., harmful inflation is identified as the dominant monetary theme of our century), and sprinkled with allusions to Voltaire, Goethe, L. Frank Baum and Gertrude Stein, this intriguing selective survey will captivate even readers with no particular yen for financial knowledge. (Feb.)

Anthropologist Weatherford (Savages and Civilization, LJ 12/93) has written an interesting and informative book about money, a subject often treated in a dry-as-dust technical manner. Money, according to Weatherford, has experienced three revolutions: the first, with the invention of metallic coins (gold, silver) 3000 years ago; the second, the development of paper money (now the most prevalent form of money) in Renaissance Italy; and today, on the cusp of the 21st century, the rise of electronic money (the all-purpose electronic cash card), which, he believes, will radically change the international economy. Along the way, Weatherford traces the rise of banking systems and other financial institutions and shows how national governments are playing a dominant role in managing the money supply. There is much peripheral but fascinating material in this anecdotal account. Well recommended for all readers.‘Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York

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