At the intersection of History and Finance…..

Think that Wall Street has nothing to do with the real economy? You are probably not alone in that regard. But it turns out, you are wrong. As William N. Goetzmann demonstrates in his Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (Princeton University Press, 2016), the tools of finance were as important for the rise of civilization as were the soldiers, castles and battles. Were it not for property contracts, agreements over imports and exports of grain, how to manage risk in increasingly complex economic ventures, etc we are still living in small agricultural communities eaking out an existence, and with no engagement of the wider world beyond the next village over.

For finance professionals, Money Changes Everything offers an additional lesson: you have a history. People have been confronting for millenia the same intellectual and operational challenges that you face today. It might make sense to become familiar with how your predecessors in Ancient Sumeria and Rome and Qing Dynasty China and early modern Europe defined and worked out those same problems. You might be surprised how much you can learn from your predecessors.

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