Practical analysis for investment professionals
24 April 2014

Modern Finance Is Seeing Historic Levels of Speculation

Posted In: Economics

Why study financial history? For historical context that helps to make sense of the current world.

Not surprisingly, the 2008–2009 global financial crisis sent many financial professionals looking to history for a sense of appropriate context and perspective to understand the magnitude of such a catastrophic financial shock. This, in turn, sparked a general interest in financial history but with few professional sources to turn to. At the 2014 Middle East Investment Conference, professor Adrian R. Bell, head of the ICMA Centre at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School, considered the question of whether modern finance existed in the Middle Ages.

Bell hesitated, but nonetheless conceded, that finance seems to be as old as the agricultural revolution in Mesopotamia more than 3,000 years ago. It was then that forward contracts carved into cuneiform tablets — one for barley (at an interest rate of 33.33%) and the other for silver (at an interest rate of 20%) — were entered into between a person and a god (at least the god’s intermediary, a priest). Put another way, finance seems to be an inevitable consequence of human activity, and its invention was predetermined.

Continue reading on the Middle East Investment Conference blog

Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

About the Author(s)
Jason Voss, CFA

Jason Voss, CFA, tirelessly focuses on improving the ability of investors to better serve end clients. He is the author of the Foreword Reviews Business Book of the Year Finalist, The Intuitive Investor and the CEO of Active Investment Management (AIM) Consulting. Voss also sub-contracts for the well known firm, Focus Consulting Group. Previously, he was a portfolio manager at Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., where he co-managed the Davis Appreciation and Income Fund to noteworthy returns. Voss holds a BA in economics and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Colorado.

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