... vivid ... Opening with sketches of the lives and ideas of such luminaries as Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley (he of comet fame), Mr. Levenson pauses to describe the reform of the English coinage and to ponder the nature of money itself. This last topic could hardly be timelier now that the Federal Reserve is producing more money than even Newton, hyper-efficient warden of the Royal Mint in the late 1600s was equipped to imagine ... Mr. Levenson gives a fine, sympathetic account of the 'disputatious' Archibald Hutcheson, the Cassandra who saw the crash coming but was mocked for his unwelcome foresight.
... [a] detailed historical account that connects seemingly unrelated developments ... Readers are introduced to compelling and memorable figures and events, but it is not until the book’s final chapter and epilogue that a straight line is drawn from London’s Exchange Alley of the seventeenth century to the 2008 financial crisis. Two additional factors that contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resulting financial crisis—the loosening of federal regulations and overleveraged banks—are given relatively superficial treatment. Still, the book lays the groundwork for the reader to contemplate the earliest origins of complex financial instruments. Well-written and thoroughly fascinating, this book would be a good fit for large collections serving undergraduate and graduate students.