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Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk Paperback – Sep 14 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (Sept. 14 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471295639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471295631
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.2 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 540 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #45,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Reader on Jan. 21 2001
Format: Hardcover
History is a deep subject. Probability theory is a deep subject. History of probability theory, and its applications to risk management is a very deep, if not murky, subject that deserves expert treatment. The author is commended for being the first to tackle such a thorny topic and to make serious effort to educate the lay reader. But the book is full of mistakes.
Other reviewers have already commented on mistakes in history and in mathematics. Let me comment on mistakes in physics. Page 200, Einstein did not discover the motion of electrons. In 1905, Einstein wrote a paper on Brownian motion of particles that could be observed using an optical microscope. Page 216: Einstein did not demonstrate than an imperfection lurked below the surface of Euclidean geometry. Einstein used Riemannian geometry to describe gravitatonal effects. Page 232: von Neumann was not instrumental in discovering Quantum Mechanics in Berlin during the 20's. von Neumann worked on mathematical aspects of Quantum Mechanics that are far removed from anything like discovering the subject. The problem with mistakes like that, is that they make one very suspicious of any other statement on a topic that one is not familiar with.
One more comment but this time on a historical matter: On page 200, the author labels Poincare' as "Bachelier's nemesis". I recently read a biography of Bachelier, that unfortunately I cannot locate, and my recollection is that Poincare' tried to help him obtain an academic position. I'm afraid the author took rather drastic poetic license here, and it would be interesting if someone clarifies this point.
I think the book suffers from lack of serious editing on behalf of the publisher.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Maureen on April 14 2004
Format: Paperback
Against the Gods draws you through a vast time span. Peter Bernstein begins with the conception of the Arabic numbeting system, up through present time super speed computers. Although, the history found in this book is interesting, the title leads you to believe it is all about investment risks, however it is more of a history text book than a manual. This book is a story of theories and how they developed. You will learn quite a bit about ancient times and how things evolved into the way that they are now, but do not expect any great help or advice on how to deal with risks in the investment world. Once you get into this book, Bernstein's writing sytle draws you in. The book is interesting enough, Bernstein's knowledge of hisotry is astounding. History Buffs: here ya go!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By obediah on March 8 2004
Format: Paperback
"Against the Gods" is a book outlining the history of risk. The book provides an outline of all the key players and their contribution to risk theory and management. Chronologically, the book begins in ancient times and stretches all the way to the present, where Bernstein delves into the works of modern day risk luminaries. The book is well written and the style is engaging, with the author always managing to find a way to keep the reader entertained as well as informed.
The book does not pretend to be a "how to" guide for risk management, nor should readers treat it as such. Although the book does discuss modern risk management tools such as derivatives, it is devoid of complex technical analysis and its treatment of such devices is limited to outlining their place in the history of risk. Those looking for technical trading analysis should seek elsewhere.
One of the key questions a potential reader of this book should be asking is "Does this book have any practical applications with regards to modern day risk management?" Whilst as mentioned above the book is not a step by step guide, I firmly believe the book is useful insofar as it enables the reader to avoid the pitfalls of the past. For example, capital markets are continually surprising those who hold an unwavering belief in "regression to the mean". The books provides an explanation of what this theory states, how it has been applied and where overzealous disciples have misused this principle in the past. Overall I would recommend this book as an informative and enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andy A on Oct. 4 2001
Format: Paperback
It was hard to finish this book. I couldn't put it down though, as I kept hoping the author would get to the point. He posed many good questions, but it didn't seem like he answered many. He lost credibility with me because of numerous logical errors.
A technical person should not read this book, maybe it's more for psychiatrists, sociologists, or some other "ists".
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Format: Paperback
Against The Gods is a popular account of the history of financial risk management. The author takes us through a journey of discovery spanning almost a thousand years, from the introduction of Arabic numerals and the concept of zero, to the most sophisticated derivative instruments of modern finance. At each point in history when a great leap forward was made, the personalities involved are introduced, and the advances they are credited with are explained. All throughout, mankind's age-old struggle to measure and control uncertainty is seen to stumble time and again against the same, seemingly insurmountable problem: There is no guarantee that what happened in the past will continue to happen in the future.

The book is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the origins of modern risk management and what the concept of risk really means.
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