In This Review

Capitals of Capital: A History of International Financial Centres
Capitals of Capital: A History of International Financial Centres
By Youssef Cassis
Cambridge University Press, 2007, 400 pp

The private Geneva bank Pictet & Cie celebrated its 200th anniversary by commissioning this work by the Swiss historian Cassis. It traces the ups and downs of major and secondary financial centers from the late eighteenth century to the present, covering not only their geographic shifts but also the evolution of financial activity, from the simple acceptance of trade-related bills of exchange through marine insurance and the management of debt to the complex derivatives that characterize financial markets today. Although the book's sponsorship ensures a significant place for Swiss institutions, the story is dominated by other events: London supplanting Amsterdam as the world's leading financial center at the turn of the nineteenth century, New York coming to rival London in the early twentieth century, London's successful efforts to remain a global financial center despite the relative decline of the United Kingdom's domestic economy (and the success, indeed innovative role, of U.S. financial institutions in London), and Paris' long rivalry with London. The author's comprehensive and judicious treatment of this evolution is useful reading for anyone interested in the antecedents of today's vibrant international financial markets.