Maybe you’re a student learning about the history of finance. Or perhaps you’re just curious about how checking writing came about as a money exchange method. Either way, you’ve likely landed here because you’re searching for facts about the history of checks. To help you find answers, we’ve compiled a list of three books that delve into the topic. Read these three books to learn more about the history of checking.
1- The Story of Checks and Electronic Payments
Initially published in 1979 by the Federal Reserve Bank, “The Story of Checks and Electronic Payments” has undergone four subsequent updates in 1987, 2001, 2005, and 2006. Gail Donovan penned the first edition, and a string of editors made changes and additions over the years.
This is an excellent choice for visual learners since it’s a 20-page comic book featuring charts and graphs. But don’t let the colorful pictures fool you. This book isn’t for young kids. Instead, “The Story of Checks and Electronic Payments” is written for high-school and intro-level college courses. Content-wise, it provides a top-level view of how money moves through the banking system.
2- A Short History of Money and Banking
William M. Gouge was a renowned 19th-century journalist, economist, and treasury official. Academically, he’s known as one of the early advocates for “sound money” theories. Inspired by the 1819 financial panic, Gouge laid out his thoughts in “A Short History of Money and Banking,” which he published in 1833.
Though it was written way back in the day — and the language is a bit more stilted than today’s vernacular — Gouge’s treatise is still regarded as one of the most important times in the annals of American financial literature. Ultimately, “A Short History of Money and Banking” describes the push and pull between Main and Wall Streets by detailing the history and functionality of currency modules, including checks.
Before 2006, this book was impossible to get your hands on. But thanks to the Mises Institution, it is now readily available in Kindle format or paperback.
3- The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
Out of former Harvard professor and Stanford University fellow Niall Ferguson’s 15 books, “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” is arguably the most well-known. A sweeping history of global economics, he roots the finance industry’s origins in ancient Mesopotamia and tracks its rise across the globe, carefully considering finance payment products, like personal and business checks.
As a committed capitalist, Ferguson makes the case that financial and human development are inextricably linked. If you don’t want to read the nearly 500-page book, check out the six-part PBS series based on the work.
Is your wallet light at the moment? If so, check out a free pamphlet published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta called “The Evolution of the Check as a Means of Payment: A Historical Survey.” Though it doesn’t include as much detail as the books above, it provides a comprehensive overview of the history of checking.