The Top 100 Financial History Books As Voted By The Museum Of Finance

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Here is a list of the top 100 financial history books as voted by members of the Museum of Finance. Top ten are listed below with the summary, followed by a list of the other 90 – enjoy!

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Financial History Books #1: Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

Author: Edwin LeFevre

Year of Publication 1923

Still in print 88 years after first being published, there is no small irony that the top-ranked book on this list is, technically, fiction; nor that it exposes the wretched excess and carnival atmosphere of the financial markets. Has nothing changed? How far from this cautionary tale have we come? Michael Milken? Bernie Madoff? Those miscreants were real, as was trader Jesse Lauriston Livermore, the thinly-disguised subject of Reminiscences. In the tradition of Daniel Drew, Livermore was a bear raider, known as The Great Plunger, a sewer of fictional value and confidence. The quality of Reminiscences, however, is palpably real. The language, while a little dense, is redolent of the age, and the chapter format is practically a how-to guide.

Financial History Books #2: The Big Short

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Author: Michael Lewis

Year of Publication 2010

Journalism is called the first draft of history. This recent book, destined to become a definitive classic of our time, is one of those rare cases where the same reporter who did the original work also got to go back and finish the job. Lewis details — clearly and thoroughly — the backstory of how the demons of financial engineering like collateralized debt obligations were first summoned and then escaped into the wider economy. This is a brave and unapologetic work, proving two things: that people dealing with billions of dollars in someone else’s money should take a Hippocratic Oath, and also that in some reporting there is not such thing as objectivity, only fairness. If that strays from the sepia-toned view of journalism then Lewis restores the luster with his exhaustive research and corroboration. Reading it is like reading The Guns of August: the outcome is known, but the venality and callousness and that lead to it are gut-wrenching.

Financial History Books #3: Manias, Panics, and Crashes

Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

Author: Charles Kindleberger

Year of Publication 1978

To laugh or cry? Kindleberger is a mighty foil to the prevailing moods of the dismal science: even the best books on financial history tend to be deadly earnest or tediously self-righteous. Manias is clever, witty, wry. If we are all fools for love, we are also fools for money. To be sure, the scholarship is as rigorous as any other work on this list. But it is delightful in that all this insight and analysis comes through a light turn of phrase and fluid writing. Dick Sylla, chairman of the Museum’s board of trustees, wrote of the current, fifth edition: “What long has been the best history of financial pathologies is now even better. The reader who absorbs Kindleberger’s lessons will be prepared to foresee and navigate the financial crises that surely lie ahead. Like a true classic, Manias is both timely and timeless.”

Financial History Books #4: A Monetary History of the United States 1867–1960

A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960

Author: Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz

Year of Publication 1963

Find “definitive” and “authoritative” in the dictionary and there will be a picture of this book. In March 2004 then Fed Governor Ben S. Bernanke delivered the H. Parker Willis Lecture in Economic Policy at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He said of this book, “Friedman and Schwartz offered important new evidence and arguments about the role of monetary factors in the Great Depression. In contradiction to the prevalent view of the time, that money and monetary policy played at most a purely passive role in the Depression, Friedman and Schwartz argued that ‘the [economic] contraction is in fact a tragic testimonial to the importance of monetary forces.’” Bernanke’s homage is remarkable in light of the fact that Friedman and Schwarz are fearless and assertive in their critique of the Federal Reserve through and after the Crash of 1929.

Financial History Books #5: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Author Charles Mackay

Year of Publication 1841

In his introduction Mackay writes of “whims and peculiarities,” as if he were referring to fashion or music. He then cites the Crusades and witch hunts as deadly examples of mania and social madness. This fondly familiar classic was the original financial history for broad audiences. The voice is avuncular, the tone gently chiding. Mackay finds our financial faults lie not within our stars but within ourselves. Still in print, it encourages investors in a solid Victorian mindset to rise above their base nature and be creatures of thought rather than instinctive fear and greed. The quotable line, to use a film reference is: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Financial History Books #6: Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Author: Ron Chernow

Year of Publication 2004

When have 730 pages ever flown by so quickly? Hamilton is the patron saint of American enterprise, and here Chernow has given him the definitive biography. It tells enough of the times so that the life is related all the more finely. The writing is brisk and accessible, but is rich in vocabulary. Chernow is clearly an admirer of Hamilton, but the presentation is fair and balanced, not glossing over any of the man’s misjudgments. Other biographers have tended to emphasize Hamilton’s war record — he led the charge at Yorktown — and on the battles over assumption. Chernow honors those but gives full glory to Hamilton’s role as President Washington’s most trusted advisor, and also as a key enabler of the Constitution—far beyond just his role in writing the Federalist Papers. (full review in Financial History, issue 86, Fall 2004).

Financial History Books #7: Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

Author: John C. Bogle

Year of Publication: 2008

Like Theodore Roosevelt, John Bogle is both a wealthy man, and a harsh critic of the malefactors of great wealth (as TR called them). For the founder of the multi-squillion-dollar Vanguard Funds, Bogle decries the “counting culture” in America. He delights in calling earnings-per-share, slavishly followed as The Number, as essentially fictitious. Bogle talks about character, and societal issues and outrage. Bogle lays bare the insatiable avarice that drives financial operators to ever-greater levels of cost and complexity. Not the kind of thing that Captains of Industry usually bother with. Yet no less a stalwart than Barron’s praised Enough, saying it it was “a rabble-rousing, world-changing work like Common Sense and The Communist Manifesto.”

Financial History Books #8: The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor

Author: Benjamin Graham

Year of Publication: 1949

Before there was Buffett, there was Graham. First published in 1949, the Sage of Omaha read it the following year when he was 19 and has since called it “by far the best book on investing ever written.” The revised edition, updated and featuring commentary from Jason Zweig, member of this magazine’s editorial board, is indeed enhanced with contemporary examples and perspectives. Still, it is the timeless simplicity, the elemental nature of value investing, that is the bedrock of Graham. In sharp contrast to the popular guides for “dummies” and “idiots” today, Graham treats his readers with respect. Chapters 16, “Four Extremely Instructive Case Histories,” and 17, “A Comparison of Eight Pairs of Companies,” could easily be read just for fun. It might also be noted that with more than a million copies in print, this durable and modest effort has in all likelihood outsold all the other 99 books on the list combined.

Financial History Books #9: The Wealth of Nations

The Wealth of Nations

Author: Adam Smith

Year of Publication: 1776

The granddaddy of them all. Literally an epic when the ink was still wet on the Declaration of Independence, the first printing sold out in mere months. This is the fountainhead from which all the others spring. It influenced the American and French Revolutions. It is to economics what Newton was the mathematics and Darwin to biology. Of all the 100 books listed here, it is the one most likely to be familiar to a person in the street. To the people in The Street, and in The City, it is secular scripture. To be sure, the writing is in and of its time. Economics as a discipline did not exist, and the term capitalism had to await its coining by Marx. So the reading can be slow going. But this is granular. The essential, elemental principles are identified and their interactions detailed. Modern critics note that there are internal inconsistencies, which is true. But like physicists testing Einstein, the harder the critics work to prove one small point in error, the more they uphold the greater body of the work.

Financial History Books #10: Ten Years of Wall Street

Ten years in Wall street; or, Revelations of inside life and experience on ‘change

Author: William Worthington Fowler

Year of Publication: 0000

A magnificent first-hand account, teeming with period color and featuring one of the most beautiful passages ever written on any subject: “No one who has entered the precincts of the stock exchange will have failed to notice certain nondescripts who constantly frequent the market. They are men who have seen better days, but having dropt their money in the street, come there every day as if they hoped to find it in the same place. These characters are the ghosts of the market, fixing their lack-lustre eyes upon it, and pointing their skinny fingers at it, as if they would say, ‘thou hast done this!’ They flit about the door-ways, and haunt the vestibules of the exchange, seedy of coat, blackingless of boot, unkempt, unwashed, unshorn, wearing on their worn, haggard faces a smile more melancholy than tears.”

List Of The Top 100 Financial History Books

Ahamed, Liaquat Lords of Finance, 2009

Barnum, P.T. The Art of Money Getting, 1880

Barskin, Jonathon and Miranti, Paul A History of Corporate Finance, 1997

Berle, Adolf and Means, Gardner The Modern Corporation and Private Property, 1932

Bernstein, Peter Against the Gods, 1998

Bernstein, Peter The Power of Gold, 2004

Bogle, John Enough!, 2008

Brock, Leslie The Currency of the American Colonies, 1700–1764, 1975

Brooks, Robert Once In Golconda, 1969

Burrough, Bryan and Helyar, John Barbarians at the Gate, 1989

Carosso, Vincent The Morgans, 1987

Chancellor, Edward Devil Take the Hindmost, 2000

Chernow, Ron Alexander Hamilton, 2004

Chernow, Ron Titan, 2004

Clason, George S. The Richest Man in Babylon, 1955

Clews, Henry Fifty Years in Wall Street, 1908

Cohan, William D. House of Cards, 2009

Dash, Mike Batavia’s Graveyard, 2003

De Roover, Raymond The Rise and Fall of the Medici Bank, 1963

DePew, Chauncey M. 100 Years of American Commerce, 1895

Drucker, Peter The Age of Discontinuity, 1969

Ferguson, Niall The Ascent of Money, 2008

Ferguson, Niall Empire, 2004

Ferguson, Niall Colossus, 2005

Fisher, Irving The Stock Market Crash and After, 1930

Fleming, Thomas The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, 2010

William Worthington Ten Years in Wall Street or, Revelations of Inside Life and Experience on ‘Change, 1870

Fraser, Steve Every Man a Speculator, 2005

Friedman, Milton Capitalism and Freedom, 1962

Friedman, Milton and Schwartz, Anna Jacobson A Monetary History of the United States 1867–1960, 1963

Galbraith, John Kenneth Money, 1975

Gambee, Robert Wall Street: Financial Capital, 2002

Geisst, Charles 100 Years of Wall Street, 2000

Geisst, Charles Wall Street: A History, 1997

Graham, Benjamin The Intelligent Investor, 1949

Graham, Benjamin and Dodd, David Security Analysis, 1934

Grant, James Mr. Market Miscalculates, 2008

Griffin, G. Edward The Creature from Jekyll Island, 1994

Hammond, Bray Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War, 1957

Homer, Sidney and Sylla, Richard A History of Interest Rates, 2005

Johnson, Simon 13 Bankers, 2010

Kane, Thomas P. The Romance and Tragedy of Banking, 1923

Kaufman, Henry The Road to Financial Reformation, 2009

Kindleberger, Charles Manias, Panics, and Crashes, 1978

Klein, Maury Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929, 2001

Kneen, Brewster Invisible Giant, 1995

Koehn, Nancy (editor) The Story of American Business, 2009

Kritzler, Edward Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean , 2008

Lanier, Henry A Century of Banking: 1822–1922, 1922

LeFevre, Edwin Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, 1923

Levy, Leon and Linden, Eugene The Mind of Wall Street, 2004

Lewis, Michael The Big Short, 2010

Lewis, Michael Liar’s Poker, 1989

Lewis, Reginald; Walker, Blair and Price, Hugh Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?, 1994

Little, Jeffery and Rhodes, Lucien Understanding Wall Street, 1991

Livingston, J.A. The American Stockholder, 1958

Lowenstein, Roger When Genius Failed, 2000

Mackay, Charles Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1841

Maybury, Richard What Ever Happened to Penny Candy? (5th Ed), 2004

Mayer, Martin The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery, 1990

Mayer, Martin The Bankers, 1974

McDonald, Lawrence G. A Colossal Failure of Common Sense, 2009

McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression, 1984

McGee, Suzanne Chasing Goldman Sachs, 2010

McLean, Bethany and Elkind, Peter The Smartest Guys in The Room, 2004

Medbery, James Knowles Men and Mysteries of Wall Street, 1870

Moody, John The Art of Wise Investing, 1904

Niall, Ferguson High Financier, 2010

Partnoy, Frank The Match King, 2009

Prestbo, John Markets Measure, 1999

Rizek, Martin and Medvecky, Barbara; Joanne The Financial District’s Lost Neighborhood, 2004

Rogoff, Kenneth and Reinhart, Carmen This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, 2009

Schwed, Jr., Fred Where Are the Customers’ Yachts?, 1940

Shaw, Bernard The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, 1928

Shiller, Robert The New Financial Order, 2003

Shorto, Russell The Island at the Center of the World, 2005

Slack, Charles Hetty, 2005

Smith, Adam The Wealth of Nations, 1776

Smith, Martin Hale Twenty Years Among the Bulls and Bears of Wall Street, 1870

Smith, Adam The Money Game, 1968

Sobel, Robert The Great Bull Market, 1968

Sobel, Robert The Money Manias, 1973

Steele Gordon, John The Great Game, 2009

Steele Gordon, John An Empire of Wealth, 2004

Steele Gordon, John Hamilton’s Blessing, 1998

Steele Gordon, John A Thread Across the Ocean, 2002

Stewart, James Den of Thieves, 1991

Stiles, T.J. The First Tycoon, 2009

Strouse, Jean Morgan: American Financier, 1999

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas The Black Swan, 2007

Tarbell, Ida The History of the Standard Oil Company, 1904

Walker, David M. Comeback America, 2010

Winans, Kenneth G. Investment Atlas, 2008

Wright, Robert E. The First Wall Street, 2005

Wright, Robert E. One Nation Under Debt, 2008

Wright, Robert and Cowen, David Financial Founding Fathers, 2006

Yergin, Daniel The Prize, 1991

Zuckerman, Gregory The Greatest Trade Ever, 2010

Zuckoff, Mitchell Ponzi’s Scheme, 2006

Zweig, Jason The Little Book of Safe Money, 2009

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