Freaks of Fortune

By Jonathan Levy,

Book cover of Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America

Book description

Until the early nineteenth century, "risk" was a specialized term: it was the commodity exchanged in a marine insurance contract. Freaks of Fortune tells the story of how the modern concept of risk emerged in the United States. Born on the high seas, risk migrated inland and became essential to…

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Why read it?

1 author picked Freaks of Fortune as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Although this book is ostensibly about risk, none of Levy’s fascinating case studies stray far from money. Indeed, one of his central claims is that modern capitalism transforms risk into a financial calculation, whereby money’s fluid nature can be employed to divert uncertainty in different directions. Although the goal in such transactions is always to contain risk, the reality (as brilliantly recounted by Levy) is far less certain.

I read this book immediately after writing about the history of British life insurance, and most of these cases (about insuring slave ships, African-American savings, farm mortgages, and the stock market, among…

From Timothy's list on the strangeness of money.

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