After conducting research on well over two hundred subjects for this blog since 2018, I have turned to certain books on financial or economic history repeatedly whether for ideas or details. From light reading to heavy tome, here they are. I can recommend these to anyone who has found value or welcome diversion in any of the content on The Tontine Coffee-House.

-Daniel DeMatos

  1. A Financial History of Western Europe (Charles P. Kindleberger)
    • I often turn to Kindleberger’s Financial History of Western Europe, covering financial development from the Age of Discovery to the Eurozone, for ideas and details. It’s been referenced in several of my posts, including a pair about the reparations imposed on France after its defeat at the end of the reigns of Napoleon I and Napoleon III.
  2. A Financial History of the United States (Jerry W Markham)
    • As useful as Kindleberger’s Financial History of Western Europe has been Markham’s Financial History of the United States. I’ve leveraged it most for posts on colonial America, including posts that have covered the use of commodities, like tobacco and seashells, as money.
  3. Private Banking in Europe (Youssef Cassis and Philip L. Cottrell)
    • Covering a period as broad as Kindleberger’s Financial History of Western Europe but focusing only on private banking, Youssef Cassis and Philip L. Cottrell’s Private Banking in Europe is valuable to understanding the intricacies of these organizations and their development over centuries. It was crucial to conveying the operations of London merchant banks and describing the effect of their sterling bills on trade.
  4. Boom and Bust (William Quinn and John D. Turner)
  5. A History of Interest Rates (Sidney Homer and Richard Sylla)
    • Where else could you get a several thousand year history of interest rates, from ancient Sumer through the end of the 20th century. Homer and Sylla’s History of Interest Rates was referenced in my summaries of the earliest sovereign bonds and the popular 19th century French rentes.
  6. The Ascent of Money (Niall Ferguson)
    • Niall Ferguson’s Ascent of Money tells the story of money and credit and their increasing centrality, not just to finance, but to the world generally. I used Ferguson’s pages on Alexander Webster and Robert Wallace, in this post about the Scottish Ministers’ Widows’ Fund, one of the first life insurance companies in the world.
  7. Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation (Edward Chancellor)
    • Focusing on speculation and bubbles, Edward Chancellor’s book provides enlightening but digestible accounts of speculative activities ranging from the South Sea Bubble to the 1980s Japanese property boom.
  8. Wall Streeters (Edward Morris)
    • Edward Morris’s collection of just over a dozen biographies of consequential financiers was helpful to my post on Charles E. Merrill’s Merrill Lynch & Company. The book also contains brief biographies of J. Pierpont Morgan, Benjamin Graham, Michael Milken, and less well-known but still transformative figures.
  9. Heroes and Villains of Finance (Adam Baldwin)
    • In a collection of short vignettes, Adam Baldwin provides a taste of what’s to be had from reading more financial history. Many of the people or groups featured in this book also appear in the The Tontine Coffee-House, from the Knights Templar to hedge fund pioneer Alfred Winslow Jones.
  10. The Secret Financial Life of Food (Kara Newman)
    • In The Secret Financial Life of Food, Kara Newman explores the modern markets for agricultural commodities and how they developed. While I used the book to write up a condensed history of the now defunct New York Produce Exchange, please check out her retelling of the Great Salad Oil Swindle in Chapter 10.

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