The Ascent of Money

Watch The Ascent of Money

  • 2008
  • 1 Season
  • 7.8  (38)

The Ascent of Money is a documentary television series produced by Channel 4 in 2009. It takes us on a journey through the history of money and finance, exploring the key events and figures that have shaped our global economic system. The series is presented by Niall Ferguson, a renowned economic historian and professor at Harvard University. In each episode, Ferguson delves into a different aspect of the financial world, from the invention of currency and the rise of banks to the impact of bubbles, booms, and crashes.

The first episode, "Dreams of Avarice," begins with a look at the ancient origins of money, tracing its evolution from bartering to the creation of coins and paper currency. Ferguson explores the role of gold and silver in establishing trust and value in early economies, and how the discovery of the New World in the fifteenth century led to the exploitation of large amounts of precious metals, fueling the ascent of Europe's imperial powers.

Other episodes in the series examine the influence of banking and credit, from the establishment of the first modern bank in the seventeenth century to the rise of hedge funds and investment banks in the twenty-first century. The growth of the insurance industry is also given attention, with episodes focusing on the evolution of life insurance, property insurance, and the concept of risk.

Throughout the series, Ferguson emphasizes the critical importance of innovation and technology in the development of modern finance. The emergence of stock markets, the invention of the calculator, and the advent of digital trading platforms are just a few of the milestones that have transformed the way we invest, speculate, and store value.

But The Ascent of Money is more than just a chronicle of the past; it is also a reflection on the present and a warning for the future. In several episodes, Ferguson discusses the economic crises of recent years, including the dot-com bubble, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the European debt crisis. He argues that these events were not merely accidental or inevitable, but rather the result of flawed systems and dangerous practices within the financial industry.

Ultimately, The Ascent of Money is a compelling exploration of one of the most fundamental and pervasive aspects of modern society. By tracing the long history of money and finance, it illuminates the complex processes that underpin our economic system, offering viewers a deeper understanding of how money shapes our lives and our world.

The Ascent of Money
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6. Chimerica
December 22, 2008
Since the 1990s, once risky markets in Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe have become better investments than the UK or US stock market.
Safe as Houses
5. Safe as Houses
December 15, 2008
It sounded so simple: give state-owned assets to the people. After all, what better foundation for a property-owning democracy than a campaign of privatisation encompassing housing?
Risky Business
4. Risky Business
December 8, 2008
Life is a risky business - which is why people take out insurance. But, confronted with an unexpected disaster, the state always has to step in.
Blowing Bubbles
3. Blowing Bubbles
December 1, 2008
Why do stock markets produce bubbles and busts?
Human Bondage
2. Human Bondage
November 24, 2008
How did finance become the realm of the so-called masters of the universe? Through the rise of the bond market in Renaissance Italy.
Dreams of Avarice
1. Dreams of Avarice
November 17, 2008
From Shylock's pound of flesh to the loan sharks of Glasgow, from the 'promises to pay' on Babylonian clay tablets to the Medici banking system, Professor Niall Ferguson explains the…
Part 1: From Bullion To Bubble
101. Part 1: From Bullion To Bubble
December 31, 2008
Economist and historian Niall Ferguson takes a global look at the history of money starting with early mathematics and finance in Renaissance Europe to the conquest of the Americas, and from the Incan empire's precious metals to the dubious finances around the Louisiana territory in the US.
Part 2: Bonds of War
102. Part 2: Bonds of War
January 1, 2009
In the second episode of the four-hour series THE ASCENT OF MONEY, economist and historian Niall Ferguson explores John Law and his Louisiana territory Ponzi scheme that wrecked the economy of 18th Century France; and the innovations that let bond markets support warfare in Europe.
Part 3: Risky Business
103. Part 3: Risky Business
January 1, 2009
Economist and historian Niall Ferguson examines the roots of the insurance industry in Europe; how disasters like Hurricane Katrina expose problems in risk management; how countries like Japan manage risk for their citizens; and the rewards that can be accumulated through risk with hedge funds.
Part 4: Planet Finance
104. Part 4: Planet Finance
January 1, 2009
In the final episode of four-part THE ASCENT OF MONEY series, Niall Ferguson chronicles the spread of good — and bad — financial practices across the globe, the meteoric rise of the American real estate market, and the consequences of the subprime mortgage fiasco.
  • Premiere Date
    November 17, 2008
  • IMDB Rating
    7.8  (38)