How We Got Here: A Critical Analysis of Niall Ferguson’s “The Ascent of Money”

Niall Ferguson’s “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” offers a history of six crucial components to modern capitalism, the benefits these provide, and the consequences of their realization.

This review of Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World is divided into three sections. After introducing Ferguson, I summarize the themes and content of this conceptual history of modern finance, noting those arguments most relevant to a scholarly Islamic audience. In closing, I will attempt the following: Firstly, to discuss the intellectual climate that reflects Ferguson’s positions, those beliefs and values which frame his book. Secondly, to point out the relevance of conceptual histories to Islamic scholarship, taking Ferguson’s work as an inspiration to begin similar projects, albeit within and for the Islamic tradition. Lastly, to explain how conceptual histories of Islamic finance will provide depth to Islamic scholarship, on questions of finance, economics and the like. I will end with a series of questions designed to stimulate further discussion.