What the Chinese Thought Of the British Empire In the 18th Century (2 mins)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The British Empire, one of the largest in history, went through several phases. One critical phase was the American War Of Independence when the colonists in the North America broke away from the Empire in 1783. While it did stop British expansion in the west, it resulted in them focusing on the East.  Eventually it lead to the British Raj in India and the next phase of the British Empire.

It also saw them have more contact with the Chinese. At the time, the British were allowed to trade in the Canton port (later Hong Long), but they weren’t allowed a presence in mainland China.  What many history books fail to mention is that though the British (along with possibly the French) were the largest European powers, they weren’t the largest in the world. Continue reading “What the Chinese Thought Of the British Empire In the 18th Century (2 mins)”

It’s Not the First Brexit, Just Ask Henry VIII

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One of the challenges of understanding the consequences of Brexit is the apparent lack of precedent for such an event. But this pre-supposes that only the recent past is relevant. If instead we use the full sweep of history, then we can find the obvious precedent of the English Reformation that started in 1534. King Henry VIII passed the Acts of Supremacy making him “supreme head in earth of the Church of England” and repealing any “usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority”. The foreign authority, of course, was the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. At the time, Continue reading “It’s Not the First Brexit, Just Ask Henry VIII”

My Reading List For Success At Work (Part 2)

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Last week I provided my reading list for developing the right character for work that I give to new members of my team. This week, I’ll give my reading list for the knowledge base they need to have in the financial industry. Some of the books are easy to read cover to cover whichever industry you are in, others are worth dipping into and out of, while some are very technical. If I’ve missed any good books let me know: Continue reading “My Reading List For Success At Work (Part 2)”

Why Is Extremism On the Rise?

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I recently came across an excellent paper called “Going to Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014” by Funke, Schularick and Trebesch (2015). It conducts one of the first ever studies of how politics changes after financial crises in 20 advanced economies going back over one hundred years. It seems very apt given the changes we are seeing around the world. The study has four main conclusions: Continue reading “Why Is Extremism On the Rise?”

The Intoxication Of Power (2 mins)

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After this week’s UK and European political developments, I thought about Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Sun Tzu. The latter wrote in his “Art of War” that all warfare is based on deception (how true!). He went to describe this in more detail (as did Charlie Sheen in the 1980s classic “Wall Street”):

“Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;

When using our forces, we must seem inactive;

 When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;

 When far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Another more controversial Chinese classic was written around the same time in 500BC, it was called “The Master of Demon Valley”. It was associated with Continue reading “The Intoxication Of Power (2 mins)”

From Greek Drama To Shakespearean Tragedy (5 min read)

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Shakespeare. You cannot get more British than that. His works are taught in schools across the country, revered by the guardians of British culture and promoted as the quintessential British cultural icon abroad. With the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union, it may be time to fall back on such an icon to help forge a new path for Britishness. Continue reading “From Greek Drama To Shakespearean Tragedy (5 min read)”

One Of the Greatest Political Speeches

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With the events in Orlando, the world today looks unstable and dangerous.  What doesn’t help is the tendency for political leaders to score political points over such events. It is therefore worth looking back to another time to see how leaders can behave.

For me, the “peace speech” given by John F Kennedy in June 1963 is a template of what true leadership looks like. The backdrop was the Cold War where at any time the US and the Soviet Union could trigger nuclear armageddon. Continue reading “One Of the Greatest Political Speeches”

Is the FinTech Utopia Just Around The Corner?

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Utopia: noun  uto·pia  \yu̇-ˈtō-pē-ə\; an imaginary and indefinitely remote place; an impractical scheme for social improvement

There is a common belief today that a coming technology utopia will solve all our problems with the financial system. This type of belief is not new – take a look at these quotes from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s:

 “The hottest item in the stock market these days is not a security but an automated quotations system called NASDAQ that is speedily revolutionizing the over-the-counter market…The new electronic system gives bid and asked prices on about 2,500 counter stocks” (“The Counter Revolution: NASDAQ Bringing Competition To Wall St”, New York Times, April 4, 1971) Continue reading “Is the FinTech Utopia Just Around The Corner?”

The Unexpected History Of Capitalism (4 min read)

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(An excerpt from my upcoming book)

In any conventional history of capitalism, we are taught that the Dutch were one of earliest innovators in financial markets (before the baton was passed to the Brits, then the Americans). Indeed, they appear to have invented securitisation in the 1600s. And if we wanted to look even further back, we are told that the 12th century financiers in the Italian cities of Genoa and Venice were the earliest capitalists.

But what is less well known is that it was the Italian interaction with the Muslim world that likely transferred to Europe many of these financial techniques. We now know much of this from the ancient Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo. Continue reading “The Unexpected History Of Capitalism (4 min read)”

Am I Racist?

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Of course I’m not, but surely others are. Hang on, if the “other” is me twenty years ago – were the attitudes I had back then bigoted? (hmm, no comment). Or twenty years hence, will I look back at my perspectives today, and think how regressive they were?!

I’m tempted to think that I’ll always have the perfect attitudes, but I’m not so sure when I look at the views of some of the past greats like Gandhi, Lincoln, and Churchill: Continue reading “Am I Racist?”