(Money Magazine) -- For many people, the most shocking aspect of the financial crisis is that something of this scale could happen at all. Wasn't it just a couple of years ago that the rise of globalization - and the growing sophistication of financial markets - offered the promise of perpetually low inflation, cheap money, and fat returns?
But for British historian Niall Ferguson, what's remarkable is that anyone could have thought this at all. In his latest book, "The Ascent of Money," the Harvard history and business professor traces the evolution of the world's financial systems from the earliest known coins in 600 B.C. to the collateralized debt obligations that brought down Wall Street.