Do not be put off with the title of this book. Within these pages is a fascinating history of money, how it began, grew, failed, recovered, and remains one of the dominating parts of life around the globe.  A skilfully written book that is most illuminating and enjoyable despite the gravity of the content.

Money was probably born in China when miniatures of everyday items like shovels were used as a currency.   The Greeks manufactured heavy coins holed in the middle, to be strung on leather around their necks while the Swedes strapped 43lb lumps of the country’s abundance of copper to their backs. Kublai Khan made paper money for his own use.  The physical item of money changed over the years from manufactured coins, to paper, and back to coins.  When the coins were in real gold and silver they had a tendency to shrink when users pared a little of the metal off for themselves.  But money has the ability to arouse the greed in many.

Jacob Goldstein has brought money to life in this intensely researched book with observations that opened this reader’s eyes.  Rarely do you have your money in your own possession! It is in the bank you may say.  Probably not as the bank will have invested it somewhere else. Promissory notes and receipts are not money in hand! Perhaps that is why around 100 years ago people still kept money under the bed!

The details of the what why where and when of money and the continuing power that this man created item can instigate, to affect world trade, economy, unity, peace, charity, travel etc is explained clearly and interestingly.

Many of the statistics are astounding.  In a world where cards and online payments are increasing there is an ever increasing stock of paper money floating around the world, some of which will be crime related,  as in that world,  cash is king.

A very accessible and readable book revealing a side of the financial world that is little known. Much of the progress in the life of money was a gamble, some successful, some disastrous. The odd tales of events and situations where rash behaviours put a great deal of money at risk are eyeopening and entertaining.   The tale of John Law, an Edinburgh chancer and murderer whose dabbling in finance brought France to its knees would make a great movie.

The Industrial Revolution and the resulting financial effect it is well documented. That wages were calculated on how much light you could buy is humbling.

The book went to press as the pandemic was biting into the economy worldwide.   Money worries are insidious and the writer reveals the vulnerability of us all when it comes to finance, looks at all the angles and leave the reader with a clearer picture of how money works. I think I a bit clearer now regarding  Bitcoins.

As the writers says Money is a made up thing, a fiction, and it succeeds because we all believe in it.  I did not find the history of money worrying but I am left with a sense that it is not without vulnerability.

A well researched and accessible read about a subject that affects all our lives.

Hoarding, greed, extravagance, wealth and unwise decisions are all included in this volume.

Review by Sheila Grant
Personal read  5*
Group read     5*

Atlantic Books
ISBN 9781786495709