Book Review: Digital Cash by Finn Brunton

CryptoMode Finn Brunton Digital Cash

There are dozens of books to explore for those seeking educational material on Bitcoin and how it came to be. One often overlooked title is Finn Brunton’s Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists who Created Cryptocurrency”. It may not be a good fit for those completely unaware of the cryptocurrency movement, but it is a book everyone should read at least once in their life.  A special mention goes out to Kate Farquhar-Thomson for sending a review copy my way!

A Very Deep Dive In History

Most people familiar with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will know a few historical developments leading to the current situation. Several forms of “digital money” have been tried, tested, and abandoned over the past few decades. All of them are mentioned clearly in Digital Cash, and Finn Brunton adds much more context to these concepts. 

What most people may not realize is why these concepts came to be. Bitcoin is an answer to the financial crisis of 2008, but the idea of digital money is much, much older. Knowing a bit more about the history of digital cash and why so many different ideas and implementations came to be, are all crucial knowledge for any enthusiast. 

Finn Brunton puts together a very compelling book. It takes readers on a journey through time that goes back much farther than I expected. Even though my knowledge on these topics is “decent” – or so I think – I learned quite a bit from going through the book. It made me a lot more curious about some of these concepts, which – initially – seemed unrelated to cryptocurrency or cryptography in my mind. You are never too old to learn. 

It Goes Well Beyond Cryptocurrency

Going through the Digital Cash book, it becomes apparent why Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin. Not just because of the earlier attempts at making digital money, but also because something needed to change. Driving that change without standing in the spotlight is one of the greatest gifts cryptocurrency enthusiasts benefit from today.

Dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of people, want to defend privacy and see a different monetary concept take hold. So far, it appears that Bitcoin has come closest to realizing that vision, even though it is far from perfect. While it draws a lot of inspiration from the digital money concepts that came before it, there is still plenty of room for improvements. 

As one reads through Finn Brunton’s Digital Cash, the bigger picture – which vastly transcends cryptocurrencies – comes into vision. While very valuable and speculative, Bitcoin is not a common form of digital cash in the slightest. Better infrastructure will need to be built to allow for cryptocurrency-based payments. However, that infrastructure cannot rely on KYC and AML procedures, as those are “legacy procedures and tools” that don’t fit the current and future digital narrative. 


The book “Digital Cash” by Finn Brunton is a recommended collection of information, history, and dystopian concepts that every cryptocurrency enthusiast needs to read. Assuming cryptocurrencies are destined to go mainstream, it is pertinent to look beyond what we currently know. Understanding the why, what, how, when, and who is equally crucial. These stories all need to be told, remembered, and honored for many generations to come. 

While the book may take some time to get through and digest properly, it is well worth the effort. It has been a while since I went down a few rabbit holes due to concepts I read about in a book. Digital Cash certainly keeps readers engaged, and it tells one of the more prominent “tales” in modern history most people may never know even existed.


Order your copy of Finn Brunton’s Digital Cash from Princeton University Press

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