Contemporary Issues in Finance, Semester 2 . Essay (100% of total marks).

For this essay you need to read the following book:

Émile Zola (1891). Money. (original title: L’Argent).

The book is a historical fiction, placed in 19th century Paris. Its main focal point is the French stock market. The story covers a wide array of themes including speculation, financial leverage, formation of market expectations, fraud schemes, share buy-backs, market manipulation, and many others.

After reading the book, you need to answer the following essay question:

How similar or different is the world of finance depicted by Émile Zola to financial markets in the real world today?


There are various editions of the book that you can purchase for less than £10. The book is also available as eBook at the Oxford Brookes library.

In the above essay question, consider financial markets to refer to financial markets in developed economies. Your discussion does not have to be tied to a specific country, it is up to you to decide whether you want to connect it with the UK, the US, France, or any other developed economy. This choice will not affect your mark.

The essay is open ended. There is no right or wrong answer. You could either argue that Zola’s fiction is very relevant to the world of finance nowadays, or the opposite. Or, you could make a mixed case. The challenge of the exercise is to make you think critically and come up with your own conclusions.

Reading Zola’s book is the utter minimum for this essay. You are also strongly encouraged to read at least one of the items from the suggested reading list below. Although optional, you can also browse further literature on contemporary financial markets. You can browse books, academic articles, or even online commentaries, provided they come from reputable resources.

Your mark will not depend on how many references you add, but on how convincing is your overall argument.

Suggested reading list (in alphabetical order):

Brandl M. (2017). Money, Banking, Financial Markets & Institutions. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Burton, M.G. (2003). The Efficient Market Hypothesis and Its Critics. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 17 (1): 59-82.

Fox J. (2010). The Myth of the Rational Market. A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street. London: Harriman House Publishing.

Kindleberger, C. and Aliber, R. (2015). Manias, Panics and Crises. A History of Financial Crises. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Minsky H. (1986). Stabilizing an Unstable Economy. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Shiller R. (2016). Irrational Exuberance. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Soros G. (2008). The New Paradigm for Financial Markets. The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means. New York: Public Affairs.

Tooze A. (2018). Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

New York: Viking.

Wolf M. (2015). The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned- and Have Still to Learn- from the Financial Crisis. London: Penguin.

Word limit

The maximum number of words is 2,000 (excluding any graphs, tables, appendices, and reference list/ bibliography). There is no 10% margin to be used to exceed the word limit. Words that exceed the word limit will not be marked.

Learning outcomes

  • To be able to communicate complex ideas effectively through your writing;
  • To show understanding of relevant theory;
  • To be able to think critically;
  • To demonstrate your ability to follow general academic writing rules, organise and structure essay as well as follow formatting rules provided below.

Presenting coursework for assessment

Your assignment must be presented in the following format:

  • It must be word-processed in 12-point Arial font and double-spaced
  • It must be black text on a white or ivory background
  • All pages must be numbered
  • Margins must be as follows: Top: 1 inch, Bottom: 1 inch (2.5 cm), Left: 1.25 inches, Right: 1.25 inches (3.2 cm)

❑      It should not contain your name(s)

  • Word count should be included

Assignments not complying with this format will be returned to students unmarked.

For student who are registered with the Dyslexia/SpLD Service, any submission through Moodle and Turnitin will trigger a notification of a Blue Card and there is no action required by a student.

Please see your Programme Handbook for more details. Please note the use of this grace period is monitored and restrictions in place for overuse.

If you have extensions as part of an Inclusive Support Plan (ISP), you can submit your work one, two or three weeks later in line with your ISP allowance.

Marking and moderation of your work

Following first marking, a representative sample of work is reviewed by the designated module moderator. Any changes to grades and comments are agreed with the first assessor before the assessment is returned. Following internal moderation, a sample of work is reviewed by the External Examiner for the programme to ensure that the standards applied are comparable to those at other institutions.


The coursework on this module will be submitted through Turnitin. Turnitin is a web- based tool that supports the development of good academic practice when preparing written work for assessment. This text-matching tool allows academic staff to check

assignments for improper use of sources or potential plagiarism by comparing it against continuously up-dated databases (including web-pages and other student work).

The new Turnitin policy effective from September 2020 can be found via this link. You are expected to be familiar with it.

Guidance to help with interpretation and use of Turnitin is provided here:

Ability     to               articulate complex ideas (30%)Demonstrates excellent ability to understand and articulate complex ideas related to financial markets.Insightful demonstration                       of complex ideas related to financial markets.Demonstration of ideas is correct but lacks depth.Demonstration of ideas is basic.Failure to demonstrate understanding of even basic ideas.
Knowledge                       and understanding                       of relevant theory (30%)Comprehensive knowledge of topic/ theory. Good awareness of the relevance of knowledge to given context.                           Arguments accurate and link well.Reasonable knowledge                       of topic/theory and an awareness of a variety of ideas / contexts / frameworks.Has given a factual and/or conceptual knowledge base of key theories.Evidence of limited knowledge of the topic/theory.Little evidence of knowledge relevant to topic/theory.
Ability to think critically (30%)Excellent ability to think critically and go beyond the simple description of ideas.Very good ability to think critically and go beyond the simple description of ideas.Some fragmented evidence of critical thinking is there but without                      adequate depth.Very                           limited demonstration of ability to think critically.Fails to show any evidence of critical thinking in all regards.
The structure and presentation, Harvard referencing (10%),Fluent writing style appropriate to document. Grammar and spelling accurate. Completely accurate notation used for referencing.Language       fluent. Grammar                     and spelling accurate. Accurate notation used for referencing.Language                           mainly fluent. Grammar and spelling                           mainly accurate. Generally accurate notation used for referencing.Meaning apparent but language not always fluent. Grammar and/or spelling contain errors. Errors in notation used for referencing.Meaning vague/unclear. Frequent grammar/spelling errors. Incorrect/incomplete referencing.

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