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The Equity Culture

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The Equity Culture

The Story of the Global Stock Market


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

As market trading rose and fell throughout history, constants emerged: risk happens, bubbles happen, trust is essential.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Background
  • Engaging


This book provides a concise and highly readable introduction to the development of the market economy. Beginning with ancient Rome and continuing to the first years of the twenty-first century, author B. Mark Smith traces the ups and downs of financial markets. He shows how and why trading began, explains the great bubbles and panics, and connects the course of markets to the evolution of such economic institutions as central banks. You will learn about some of the more colorful characters, the rogues and geniuses behind great frauds and great rescues. The book moves quickly and cleanly through the dense thicket of market analysis. The author identifies the great market theorists, from Joseph de la Vega through Louis Bachelier to Harry Markowitz and beyond. Moreover, he considers markets on a global scale, paying attention now to Paris, now to Japan, now to Taipei. This is a great deal of material to treat in a single book and any one of the subjects undertaken could easily justify not just one but several volumes. Thus, consider this to be something like a stroll through a market museum with a good docent as your guide. Those who have already read extensively about markets and economics will appreciate the book's light touch and amusing anecdotes. Those new to the field will appreciate its accessibility. getAbstract recommends this highly to all readers with an interest in finance.


Ancient Beginnings

The stock market originated in ancient Rome. The Roman republic discovered privatization early. The government sold the right to collect taxes, build temples and such to private groups called "publicani," which were very similar to corporations. Investors bought and sold shares, called "partes," in the great market near Temple of Castor, which stood in a neighborhood called the Forum. The trade included "partes" as well as foreign currencies, slaves, land, ships - in short, almost everything that could conceivably be bought or sold.

With the decline of Rome, the market withered. The new Christian order that eventually emerged in Europe was, at first, suspicious of financial markets and trading. The Bible, after all, included unambiguous injunctions against charging interest. But the ancient Christian theologians were adaptable; when the facts changed, they changed their minds. The facts that changed included the development of large cities, city-states and nations, the development of commerce and the need to find ways to finance all of this growth. Active markets in the trading of bonds and various money market instruments sprung up at fairs named...

About the Author

B. Mark Smith is the author of Toward Rational Exuberance: The Evolution of the Modern Stock Market. He was a professional stock trader for nearly two decades. He lives in Manhattan.

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