Money Changes Everything by William N. Goetzmann
  • Title: Money Changes Everything
  • Subtitle: How Finance Made Civilization Possible
  • Author(s): William N. Goetzmann
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Year: 2017-08-15
  • ISBN-10: 0691178372
  • ISBN-13: 9780691178370


In “Money Changes Everything,” William N. Goetzmann explores the history and impact of financial innovation on society. Spanning several centuries, this thought-provoking book delves into the development of financial instruments, such as bonds, stocks, and insurance, and their influence on world events and individual lives. Goetzmann skillfully weaves together narratives and case studies to provide a comprehensive understanding of how money not only drives economic growth but also shapes social relationships and power dynamics. By examining historical moments such as the South Sea Bubble and the Great Depression, Goetzmann navigates the complex relationship between financial markets, human behavior, and the larger societal context. With insightful analysis and meticulous research, “Money Changes Everything” offers readers a valuable perspective on the profound impact that money has on our collective experience.

Furthermore, Goetzmann’s exploration of the cultural and artistic aspects intertwined with finance adds a unique dimension to the book. By examining the development of financial art and exploring the intersection of capitalism and creativity, he sheds light on how financial innovation impacts not only markets but also broader cultural trends. Through vivid descriptions and engaging storytelling, the author successfully captures the mesmerizing allure of finance and its role in driving societal progress. Moreover, Goetzmann highlights the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with financial innovations, enabling readers to reflect on the complex interplay between wealth, power, and societal values. Ultimately, “Money Changes Everything” serves as a captivating and enlightening read for anyone interested in understanding the profound influence of finance on our world.

Book Review

In “Money Changes Everything,” William N. Goetzmann presents a compelling investigation into the intricate relationship between finance, society, and culture throughout history. With meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Goetzmann skillfully explores how financial innovations have shaped world events, individual lives, and even art.

One of the significant strengths of the book lies in Goetzmann’s ability to blend historical accounts and case studies. For instance, he examines the South Sea Bubble of 1720, a vivid period that demonstrates the powerful influence of financial bubbles on societies. Through this example, Goetzmann reveals how human greed and irrational exuberance fuel speculative frenzies, ultimately leading to catastrophic consequences. By delving into the aftermath of the South Sea Bubble, he emphasizes the long-lasting social, political, and economic repercussions of such financial disasters.

Moreover, Goetzmann explores the impact of financial instruments on society’s power dynamics. He skillfully navigates the intricate relationship between finance and politics by analyzing the role of bonds in shaping nation-building processes. Drawing on the case of nineteenth-century Brazil, he demonstrates how bonds were utilized as tools for unifying a sprawling nation and financing infrastructure development. These historical instances shed light on how financial innovations not only facilitate economic growth but also influence the distribution of power within societies.

In addition to historical events, Goetzmann explores the cultural and artistic facets intertwined with finance. He illustrates how artistic movements, such as the Dutch Masters, were influenced by the rise of financial markets in the seventeenth century. By intertwining financial history with art history, he reveals the ways in which changing economic systems can shape artistic production. This connection between finance and creativity is further explored through the lens of financial art, a fascinating field that combines the aesthetic with the monetary. Through captivating descriptions and detailed analysis, Goetzmann highlights the significance of financial art in reflecting the zeitgeist of different periods.

Throughout the book, Goetzmann adeptly tackles the ethical dimensions of financial innovations. By examining cases such as the invention of life insurance and the dynamics of the slave trade, he raises important questions about the morality of certain financial practices. These thought-provoking discussions encourage readers to reflect on the ethical implications of financial decisions and underscore the importance of social responsibility in the realm of finance.

“Money Changes Everything” is a richly researched and thoughtfully presented exploration of the profound impact of finance on society, culture, and human behavior. Goetzmann’s ability to seamlessly interweave historical narratives, case studies, and artistic connections makes for an engaging and enlightening read. This book will undoubtedly appeal to readers interested in understanding how money not only drives economic progress but also influences the broader aspects of our collective experience.

Word Count: 443

Target Audience

The book “Money Changes Everything” by William N. Goetzmann is targeted at a diverse audience interested in finance, economics, history, and the intersection of money with society and culture. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Economics and Finance Students The book offers a deep understanding of the historical and cultural context of financial innovations, making it valuable for students studying economics or finance. It provides a broader perspective on how financial systems have evolved over time and the implications for economic growth and societal dynamics.

  • History Enthusiasts History buffs will appreciate Goetzmann’s in-depth exploration of financial events such as the South Sea Bubble and the Great Depression, as well as the impact of financial instruments on the course of history. The book provides a valuable lens through which to understand the relationship between finance and key historical moments.

  • Art and Culture Enthusiasts Goetzmann’s examination of the connection between finance and artistic movements, such as the Dutch Masters, will appeal to readers with an interest in the cultural aspects of finance. The book offers insights into how economic systems shape artistic production and reflect societal values.

  • General Readers Interested in Finance Even for readers without a special background in finance, “Money Changes Everything” provides an accessible and engaging examination of the influence of money on society. It presents complex ideas in a relatable manner, making it an enjoyable read for those seeking to expand their understanding of the financial world.

In conclusion, “Money Changes Everything” is recommended reading as it offers a wealth of knowledge and insights about the intricate relationship between finance, history, art, and society. Its accessibility and interdisciplinary approach make it appealing to a broad range of readers, allowing them to explore the multifaceted impact of money on our lives.