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Setting the annus horribilis of 2020 in historical perspective, Niall Ferguson explains why we are getting worse, not better, at handling disasters.
Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises. and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all.
Yet in 2020 the responses of many developed countries, including the United States, to a new virus from China were badly bungled. Why? Why did only a few Asian countries learn the right lessons from SARS and MERS? While populist leaders certainly performed poorly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Niall Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work--pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters.
In books going back nearly twenty years, including Colossus, The Great Degeneration, and The Square and the Tower, Ferguson has studied the foibles of modern America, from imperial hubris to bureaucratic sclerosis and online fragmentation.
Drawing from multiple disciplines, including economics, cliodynamics, and network science, Doom offers not just a history but a general theory of disasters, showing why our ever more bureaucratic and complex systems are getting worse at handling them.
Doom is the lesson of history that this country--indeed the West as a whole--urgently needs to learn, if we want to handle the next crisis better, and to avoid the ultimate doom of irreversible decline.
Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of our financial system, from its genesis in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance. What's more, Ferguson reveals financial history as the essential backstory behind all history, arguing that the evolution of credit and debt was as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization. As Ferguson traces the crisis from ancient Egypt's Memphis to today's Chongqing, he offers bold and compelling new insights into the rise? and fall of not just money but Western power as well.
“A dazzling history of Western ideas.” —The Economist
“Mr. Ferguson tells his story with characteristic verve and an eye for the felicitous phrase.” —Wall Street Journal
“[W]ritten with vitality and verve . . . a tour de force.” —Boston Globe
Western civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuries.
How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications”—competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic—that the Rest lacked, allowing it to surge past all other competitors.
Yet now, Ferguson shows how the Rest have downloaded the killer apps the West once monopolized, while the West has literally lost faith in itself. Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside clashes (and fusions) of civilizations, Civilization: The West and the Rest recasts world history with force and wit. Boldly argued and teeming with memorable characters, this is Ferguson at his very best.
A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a collision between old power hierarchies and new social networks.
“Captivating and compelling.” —The New York Times
"Niall Ferguson has again written a brilliant book...In 400 pages you will have restocked your mind. Do it." —The Wall Street Journal
“The Square and the Tower, in addition to being provocative history, may prove to be a bellwether work of the Internet Age.” —Christian Science Monitor
Most history is hierarchical: it's about emperors, presidents, prime ministers and field marshals. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. Even history "from below" is often about trade unions and workers' parties. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the informal, less well documented social networks that are the true sources of power and drivers of change?
The 21st century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real.
From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks, and shows how network theory--concepts such as clustering, degrees of separation, weak ties, contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present.
Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective, so The Square and the Tower does the same for Silicon Valley. And it offers a bold prediction about which hierarchies will withstand this latest wave of network disruption--and which will be toppled.
In his rich and nuanced portrait of the remarkable, elusive Rothschild family, Oxford scholar and bestselling author Niall Ferguson uncovers the secrets behind the family's phenomenal economic success. He reveals for the first time the details of the family's vast political network, which gave it access to and influence over many of the greatest statesmen of the age. And he tells a family saga, tracing the importance of unity and the profound role of Judaism in the lives of a dynasty that rose from the confines of the Frankfurt ghetto and later used its influence to assist oppressed Jews throughout Europe. A definitive work of impeccable scholarship with a thoroughly engaging narrative, The House of Rothschild is a biography of the rarest kind, in which mysterious and fascinating historical figures finally spring to life.
What causes rich countries to lose their way? Symptoms of decline are all around us today: slowing growth, crushing debts, increasing inequality, aging populations, antisocial behavior. But what exactly has gone wrong? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues in The Great Degeneration, is that our institutions—the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail—are degenerating. With characteristic verve and historical insight, Ferguson analyzes the causes of this stagnation and its profound consequences for the future of the West. The Great Degeneration is an incisive indictment of an era of negligence and complacency—and to arrest the breakdown of our civilization, Ferguson warns, will take heroic leadership and radical reform.
The Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault. According to Niall Ferguson, England entered into war based on naive assumptions of German aims, thereby transforming a Continental conflict into a world war, which it then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather was the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces.
That the war was wicked, horrific, and inhuman is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. Indeed, more British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with little reluctance and with some enthusiasm. For anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper or more stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War.
The British Empire was the largest in all history: the nearest thing to global domination ever achieved. The world we know today is in large measure the product of Britain's Age of Empire. The global spread of capitalism, telecommunications, the English language, and institutions of representative government -- all these can be traced back to the extraordinary expansion of Britain's economy, population and culture from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth. On a vast and vividly colored canvas, Empire shows how the British Empire acted as midwife to modernity.
Displaying the originality and rigor that have made Niall Ferguson one of the world's foremost historians, Empire is a dazzling tour de force -- a remarkable reappraisal of the prizes and pitfalls of global empire.
Niall Ferguson's House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets 1798-1848 was hailed as a "great biography" by Time magazine and named one of the best books of the year by Business Week. Now, with all the depth, clarity and drama with which he traced their ascent, Ferguson - the first historian with access to the long-lost Rothschild family archives - concludes his myth-breaking portrait of once of the most fascinating and power families of all time.
From Crimea to World War II, wars repeatedly threatened the stability of the Rothschilds' worldwide empire. Despite these many global upheavals, theirs remained the biggest bank in the world up until the First World War, their interests extending far beyond the realm of finance. Yet the Rothschilds' failure to establish themselves successfully in the United States proved fateful, and as financial power shifted from London to New York after 1914, their power waned.
"A stupendous achievement, a triumph of historical research and imagination."—Robert Skidelsky, The New York Review of Books
"Niall Ferguson's brilliant and altogether enthralling two-volume family saga proves that academic historians can still tell great stories that the rest of us want to read."—The New York Times Book Review
"Superb ... An impressive ... account of the Rothschilds and their role in history."—Boston Globe
Niall Ferguson's new book The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook will be published in January 2018.
Niall Ferguson's acclaimed bestseller on the highs and lows of Britain's empire
'A remarkably readable précis of the whole British imperial story - triumphs, deceits, decencies, kindnesses, cruelties and all' Jan Morris
Once vast swathes of the globe were coloured imperial red and Britannia ruled not just the waves, but the prairies of America, the plains of Asia, the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia. Just how did a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic achieve all this? And why did the empire on which the sun literally never set finally decline and fall? Niall Ferguson's acclaimed Empire brilliantly unfolds the imperial story in all its splendours and its miseries, showing how a gang of buccaneers and gold-diggers planted the seed of the biggest empire in all history - and set the world on the road to modernity.
'The most brilliant British historian of his generation ... Ferguson examines the roles of "pirates, planters, missionaries, mandarins, bankers and bankrupts" in the creation of history's largest empire ... he writes with splendid panache ... and a seemingly effortless, debonair wit' Andrew Roberts
'Dazzling ... wonderfully readable' New York Review of Books
'Empire is a pleasure to read and brims with insights and intelligence' Sunday Times
"Even those who have read widely in 20th-century history will find fresh, surprising details." —The Boston Globe
"A fascinating read, thanks to Ferguson's gifts as a writer of clear, energetic narrative history." —The Washington Post
Astonishing in its scope and erudition, this is the magnum opus that Niall Ferguson's numerous acclaimed works have been leading up to. In it, he grapples with perhaps the most challenging questions of modern history: Why was the twentieth century history's bloodiest by far? Why did unprecedented material progress go hand in hand with total war and genocide? His quest for new answers takes him from the walls of Nanjing to the bloody beaches of Normandy, from the economics of ethnic cleansing to the politics of imperial decline and fall. The result, as brilliantly written as it is vital, is a great historian's masterwork.
Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it’s a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within—and it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.