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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Popes and Bankers: A Cultural History of Credit and Debt, from Aristotle to AIG by Jack Cashill

Jack Cashill's Popes and Bankers: A Cultural History of Credit and Debt, from Aristotle to AIG is, in most cases, an entertaining, fast-paced dash through the history of debt and lending.


It is correctly subtitled "A Cultural History of Credit & Debt, From Aristotle to AIG" because it is simply "a" history. It is not definitive, in any way. It is simply one part of a much larger story. Popes & Bankers focuses on Western Culture, especially Italy, England, Germany, France, Holland and the United States. Nary a mention of Asia, Africa, or even the Muslim world - I found only one passing comment about sharia banking. Cashill ignores nearly a billion people who follow a religion that outlaws usury.

Cashill also ignores post-Marx Europe.

Cashill covers lots of topics here, but has no index.

Ignoring these topics creates as many questions as he attempted to answer in this book.


Cashill has an approachable, easy-to-read style. If you have even a notional grasp of European and American history you should be able to follow along. Zero level of economics knowledge is required (but of course would be helpful).

Cashill liberally acknowledges his sources and I was able to identify three authors I would like to check out.

Cashill's description of our current home mortgage induced financial crisis is quite good.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed June 29, 2010.

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