Banking and finance through the lens of the past. From merchant-bankers to the first (modern) banks

September 25, 2015

Medieval Bankers

Medieval Bankers

Some months ago, I watched a wonderful series on Aljazeera, called Marco Polo: a very modern journey. The tale is fascinating and addresses diverse (current) themes while Marco’s story flows in the background. It reminded me of another amazing series called The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.While watching the adventures of the Venetian traveller, my train of thoughts wound the clocks back in time… Towards the XII century, a new profession was emerging within the medieval Italian city: the ‘merchant-banker’.

These bold entrepreneurs and travellers soon became sedentary and created companies in the major central and northern Italian communes, built on the ashes of the Roman Empire. Such commercial and financial organisations relied on a complex structure (considering the epoch): regular and fast correspondence, accurate accounting practices, bills of exchange, and articulated manuals on measures, currencies, and business customs of many regions of the world (here’s an example).

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Philosophy’s Radical Anti-Authoritarianism

September 18, 2015

Suppose that you’ve always wanted to learn how to box. Having decided that you can put it off no longer, you join a boxing gym to begin your study of the sweet science. After a few weeks of instruction, you’ve learned some basic punches, some basic defenses and some basic footwork, and so your coach informs you that you’re now ready to begin sparring. You’re nervous, of course; but you’re also excited to have an opportunity to test your newfound skills. As you enter the ring, you don your headgear and glance at the opposing corner. Only then do you discover that your very first opponent is the reigning heavyweight champion of the world.

While a mismatch of that sort may be patently ridiculous in the context of learning how to box, it’s precisely what happens when you begin to study philosophy. Only the mismatch is in fact much worse. For in philosophy, your first opponents include not merely the best living philosophers; rather, they’re among the best philosophers of all time. So, after only a few weeks of philosophical training, you’re expected – indeed, strongly encouraged – to tell the likes of Plato and Descartes and Locke not only what you think they got right and wrong, but whether you think that their work in a particular area should be altered, improved, or abandoned altogether.

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“school’s out (for summer)…”

August 27, 2015

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

Huckleberry Finn fishing

I was 11 years old when Alice Cooper’s anthemic rock classic School’s Out For Summer soared to number 1 in the UK charts and summers seemed considerably longer than they do these days… endless fishing trips to the local forest ponds, and only picnics and formless games of football seemed able to punctuate what was an otherwise seamless vista of possibility… And so I thought for what is in fact my eleventh blog on this wonderful blog site I would allow myself a similar degree of freedom  just perhaps occasionally dipping my toe into the lake to share with you some of the highlights of what has been a really wonderful summer scattered with some occasional reflections on time and possibility.

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Faith re-boosted at the LSE Summer School!

August 25, 2015

Blogger Budhaditya at the LSE Summer School.

The LSE Old Building

This ‘Friday’ was not one of the most common Fridays that are usually in store for me. Soon after rushing to my French class in the afternoon, it was time to brave the lashing quintessential Kolkata monsoons to attend a ‘mehfil’ where my guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty would be demonstrating the importance of lyrics in classical Indian music. Mehfil’s are typically cozy Indian get-togethers where people come, not in huge numbers, for a event which are usually cultural ones. With my heart still in a daze pondering over the topic of discussion, my mind swiftly cuts in to the next thing in my schedule – a game of balancing sides which I have quite got used to playing. I would be flying to London to attend the LSE Summer School in a few hours. Packing was hardly done and the apartment was a complete mess, bearing not a great deal of comedy compared to the situation portrayed by Jerome K. Jerome in his novelReaching home in a dog tired state, there would hardly be scope for any kind of feelings to percolate and surface. However it did: it was a strange amalgamation of excitement, joy, fear, anxiousness, a gut feeling which was indicating that perspectives were going to be changed. Writing about my 2015 summer stay in London could be possible from a thousand different ways: as a travelogue, a poem, informing about the Summer School and counting. However, here I want to share with all of you about my experiences as a student of International Relations with the University of London and the LSE, as a humble student of music, and what I gained from the time.

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Making a good start with Introduction to Economics

August 17, 2015

Runners starting race

Dear readers,

This is my first post and will be hopefully followed by many others during my studies. My name is Oscar, I’m Italian, and currently pursuing the BSc in Economics and Finance.

I decided to join the blog since I felt I had to share my impressions and experiences with fellow students as well as actively discuss about subjects we’re studying and how these relate to our daily lives. I hope we’ll have engaging discussions along the way.

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Journey to Centre of Campus – Final Goodbyes

July 27, 2015

Photos of MSc Public Health student Jillian's time doing a blended learning module at LSHTM.

London memories…

My last blog entry entitled The paradox of time seemed like an appropriate segway to open and close my final blog on. As I’m sure most of you can relate to, time has flown by and it’s hard to conceive that October to June could be so shortly spaced together. For some students, myself included, the school year has not quite ended as we work towards finishing our thesis projects.

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Epidemiology for Zombies

July 20, 2015

LSHTM logoA man is going into space and at first he is excited by the prospect. As time moves closer to the launch date there is stress and anticipation before the rocket launch. Then we have lift off and soon the rocket is in space. The man looks down on Earth and, seeing the glow of the Earth, realises that it was all worth it in the end.

The rocket moves slowly away from Earth and the Earth becomes smaller and smaller, and the view from the windows darker and darker, until there is only black and the loneliness of an empty space. Fear sets in over whether the right coordinates are being followed and will the rocket crash into the sun.

This is how many people feel after starting a distance learning course and before and after exams. It is how I felt soon after starting my current job and meeting my colleagues which lead me to study with the University of London.

In this blog I am going to show you how you can make learning more enjoyable with wordplay, teach you some epidemiology terminology learned on the Epidemiology course, as well as how to cash in on a  Zombie outbreak.

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