Having been born into a family with a near-century’s worth of expertise in real estate, mortgages, and investments, my interest in high finance is only natural. But even for the layperson, the history of money, banks, and financial institutions is multi-layered and intrinsically fascinating. It stands out because of its cast of actors—economic wizards, free marketers, and others—as well as its unique melding of mercantilism, capitalism, and, alas, occasional bouts of cronyism.
There’s no shortage of material on the subject. There are scholarly accounts on early banking methods employed in ancient cultures such as Assyria, Greece, and Italy. The Bank of England and money markets were brilliantly examined in Walter Bagehot’s Lombard Street (1873). Alexander Hamilton’s championing of the First Bank of the United States in 1791 has been widely discussed in business, historical, and biographical accounts...
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