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Derivatives trading is now the world's biggest business, with an estimated daily turnover of over US$2.5 trillion and an annual growth rate of around 14 per cent. Derivatives markets have ancient origins, and a long and complex history of trading and regulation. This work examines the history of derivative contracts, their assignability and the regulation of derivatives markets from ancient Mesopotamia to the present day. The author concludes with an analysis of future regulatory prospects and of the implications of the historical data for derivatives trade and regulation.