Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Two History Books

I am into history now. Over the last month, I read about Maghribi traders and Genoese podestas, and listened to my classmates term paper's proposal on Texan cowboys' rule on cow stealing and Spanish Moslem, Jew, Christian courts. All are fascinating.

I have just finished a children book published by, yes, Yale University Press: A Little History of The World by EH Gombrich. If you have an 8 years old inside yourself who is easily be distracted while reading long passages with difficult words like myself, this is for you. I feel like refreshing the whole of my high school history lessons, yet in a very simple and fun way, by reading this small history book from western perspective --if not Austrian perspective, for the author was born in Austria. This is the Sophie's World of western history.

The second book I read slowly now is Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money. Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani at The Times today, this tour of the role of money across the years is a page turner. It reads:
Angry that the world is so unfair? Infuriated by fat-cat capitalists and billion-bonus bankers? Baffled by the yawning chasm between the Have, the Have-nots--and the Have-yachts? You are not alone. Throughout the history of western civilization, there has been a recurrent hostility to finance and financiers, rooted in the idea that those who make their living from lending money are somehow parasitical on the 'real' economic activities of agriculture and manufacturing. This hostility has three causes. It is partly because debtors have tended to outnumber creditors and the former have seldom felt very well disposed towards the latter. It is because financial crises and scandals occur frequently enough to make finance appear to be a cause of poverty rather than prosperity, volatility than stability. And it is because, for centuries, financial services in countries all over the world were disproportionately provided by members of ethnic or religious minorities, who had been excluded from land ownership or public office but enjoyed success in finance because of their own tight-knit networks of kinship and trust...p. 2
Well said.