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Niall Ferguson

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Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson
Ferguson at the Special World Debate on 2 July 2010.
Born Niall Campbell Ferguson
(1964-04-18) 18 April 1964
Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields International history, Economic and Financial history, American and British imperial history
Institutions Harvard University
Stanford University
New York University
New College of the Humanities
Jesus College, Oxford
London School of Economics
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Known for Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World
Influences Thomas Hobbes, Norman Stone, A. J. P. Taylor, Kenneth Clark, Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, David Landes
Spouse Sue Douglas (1987–2011)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2011–present)
Niall Ferguson's voice
Recorded June 2012 from the BBC Radio 4 programme the Reith Lectures

Niall Campbell Ferguson (; born 18 April 1964)[1] is a British historian from Scotland. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities. His specialities are international history, economic and financial history, and British and American imperialism.[2] He is known for his provocative, contrarian views.[3]

Ferguson's books include Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World and Civilization: The West and the Rest, all of which he has presented as Channel 4 television series.

In 2004, he was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Since 2011, he has been a contributing editor for Bloomberg Television[4][5] and a columnist for Newsweek.

Ferguson was an advisor to John McCain's U.S. presidential campaign in 2008, and announced his support for Mitt Romney in 2012 and has been a vocal critic of Barack Obama.[6][7]


  • Early life 1
    • University of Oxford 1.1
  • Career 2
    • Academic career 2.1
    • Business career 2.2
    • Career as commentator 2.3
    • Books 2.4
      • The Cash Nexus 2.4.1
      • Colossus and Empire 2.4.2
      • War of the World 2.4.3
      • The Ascent of Money 2.4.4
      • Civilization 2.4.5
      • Kissinger: 1923–1968: The Idealist 2.4.6
  • Opinions and research 3
    • World War I 3.1
    • Rothschilds 3.2
    • Counterfactual history 3.3
    • Henry Kissinger 3.4
    • Colonialism 3.5
      • Exchange with Pankaj Mishra 3.5.1
    • Islam and "Eurabia" 3.6
    • Iraq War 3.7
    • Economic policy 3.8
      • Exchanges with Paul Krugman 3.8.1
      • Remarks on Keynes' sexual orientation 3.8.2
  • Personal life 4
  • Bibliography 5
    • Publications 5.1
    • As contributor 5.2
    • Television documentaries 5.3
    • BBC Reith Lectures 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • General references 7.2
  • External links 8

Early life

Ferguson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 18 April 1964. His father was a physician and his mother a physics teacher.[8][9] He attended The Glasgow Academy.[10] He was brought up as, and remains, an atheist.[11]

Ferguson cites his father as instilling in him a strong sense of self-discipline and of the moral value of work, while his mother encouraged his creative side.[12] His journalist maternal grandfather encouraged him to write.[12] Unable to decide on studying an English or a history degree at university, Ferguson cites his reading of War and Peace as persuading him towards history.[9]

University of Oxford

Ferguson received a Demyship (half-scholarship) at Magdalen College, Oxford.[13] While there he wrote the 90-minute student film The Labours of Hercules Sprote and became best friends with Andrew Sullivan, based on a shared affinity for right-wing politics and punk music.[14] He had become a Thatcherite by 1982, identifying the position with "the Sex Pistols' position in 1977: it was a rebellion against the stuffy corporatism of the 70s."[9] While at university "He was very much a Scot on the make … Niall was a witty, belligerent bloke who seemed to have come from an entirely different planet," according to Simon Winder.[14] Ferguson has stated: "I was surrounded by insufferable Etonians with fake Cockney accents who imagined themselves to be working-class heroes in solidarity with the striking miners. It wasn't long before it became clear that the really funny and interesting people on campus were Thatcherites."[14]

He graduated with a first-class honours degree in history in 1985.[13] He received his D.Phil from Magdalen College in 1989, and his dissertation was entitled "Business and Politics in the German Inflation: Hamburg 1914–1924".[15]


Academic career

Ferguson is a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is a resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and an advisory fellow of the Barsanti Military History Center at the University of North Texas.

In May 2010, he announced that the Education Secretary Michael Gove in the UK's Conservative/Lib Dem government had invited him to advise on the development of a new history syllabus—"history as a connected narrative"—for schools in England and Wales.[17][18] In June 2011, he joined other academics to set up the New College of the Humanities, a private college in London.[19]

Fellow academics have questioned Ferguson's commitment to scholarship. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, an editor of The Washington Monthly, comments that

"The House of Rothschild remains Ferguson's only major work to have received prizes and wide acclaim from other historians. Research restrains sweeping, absolute claims: Rothschild is the last book Ferguson wrote for which he did original archival work, and his detailed knowledge of his subject meant that his arguments for it couldn't be too grand."[20]

John Lewis Gaddis, a Cold War era historian, characterised Ferguson in 2004 as having unrivaled "range, productivity and visibility" at the same time as criticising his work as being "unpersuasive". Gaddis goes on to state that "several of Ferguson's claims, moreover, are contradictory".[21]

Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has praised Ferguson as an excellent historian.[22] However, he has also criticised Ferguson, saying, on the BBC Radio programme Start the Week, that he was a "nostalgist for empire".[23] Ferguson responded to the above criticisms in a Washington Post "Live Discussions" online forum in 2006.[24]

Business career

In 2007, Ferguson was appointed as an investment management consultant by GLG Partners, focusing on geopolitical risk as well as current structural issues in economic behaviour relating to investment decisions.[25] GLG is a UK-based hedge fund management firm headed by Noam Gottesman.[26]

Career as commentator

In October 2007, Ferguson left The Sunday Telegraph to join the Financial Times where he was a contributing editor.[27][28] He also writes for Newsweek.[17]

Ferguson has often described the European Union as a disaster waiting to happen,[29] and has criticised President Vladimir Putin of Russia for authoritarianism. In Ferguson's view, certain of Putin's policies, if they continue, may stand to lead Russia to catastrophes equivalent to those that befell Germany during the Nazi era.[30]


The Cash Nexus

In his 2001 book, The Cash Nexus, which he wrote following a year as Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England,[28] Ferguson argues that the popular saying, "money makes the world go 'round", is wrong; instead he presented a case for human actions in history motivated by far more than just economic concerns.

Colossus and Empire

In his books Colossus and Empire, Ferguson presents a reinterpretation of the history of the British Empire and in conclusion proposes that the modern policies of the United Kingdom and the United States, in taking a more active role in resolving conflict arising from the failure of states, are analogous to the "Anglicization" policies adopted by the British Empire throughout the 19th century.[31][32] In Colossus, Ferguson explores the United States' hegemony in foreign affairs and its future role in the world.[33][34]

War of the World

The War of the World, published in 2006, had been ten years in the making and is a comprehensive analysis of the savagery of the 20th century. Ferguson shows how a combination of economic volatility, decaying empires, psychopathic dictators, and racially/ethnically motivated (and institutionalised) violence resulted in the wars and the genocides of what he calls "History's Age of Hatred". The New York Times Book Review named War of the World one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year in 2006, while the International Herald Tribune called it "one of the most intriguing attempts by an historian to explain man's inhumanity to man".[35] Ferguson addresses the paradox that, though the 20th century was "so bloody", it was also "a time of unparalleled [economic] progress". As with his earlier work Empire,[36] War of the World was accompanied by a Channel 4 television series presented by Ferguson.[37]

The Ascent of Money

Published in 2008, The Ascent of Money examines the long history of money, credit, and banking. In it he predicts a financial crisis as a result of the world economy and in particular the United States using too much credit. Specifically he cites the ChinaAmerica dynamic which he refers to as Chimerica where an Asian "savings glut" helped create the subprime mortgage crisis with an influx of easy money.[38] While researching this book, in early 2007, he attended a conference in Las Vegas where a hedge fund manager stated there would never be another recession, Ferguson stood up and challenged him on it. Later the 2 agreed a 7 to 1 bet, that there would be another recession. Ferguson would pay $14,000 if he lost while his winnings would be $98,000. "I said, 'Never is a very bad timeframe,'" Ferguson said. "'Let's say five years.'" Ferguson collected his winnings as he knew having researched the book and written several papers on economics in history, so knew another recession would definitely occur and with this bet placed a timeline of it occurring before 2012.[39]


Published in 2011, Civilization: The West and the Rest examines what Ferguson calls the most "interesting question" of our day: "Why, beginning around 1500, did a few small polities on the western end of the Eurasian landmass come to dominate the rest of the world?" He attributes this divergence to the West's development of six "killer apps" largely missing elsewhere in the world – "competition, science, the rule of law, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic".[17] A related documentary Civilization: Is the West History? was broadcast as a six-part series on Channel 4 in March and April 2011.[40]

Kissinger: 1923–1968: The Idealist

Kissinger The Idealist, Volume I, published in September 2015, is a definitive biography of Henry Kissinger based on unprecedented access to his private papers. The book starts with a quote from a letter which Kissinger wrote in 1972. The book examines Kissinger's life from being a refugee and fleeing Germany in 1938, to serving in the US army as a "free man" in World War II, to studying at Harvard and writing the longest senior thesis in the history of the university. The book also explores the history of Kissinger joining the Kennedy administration and later becoming critical of its foreign policy, to supporting Rockefeller on three failed presidential bids, to finally joining the Nixon administration. The book also includes Kissinger's early evaluation of the Vietnam war and his efforts to negotiate with the North Vietnamese in Paris.

Opinions and research

World War I

In 1998, Ferguson published the critically acclaimed The Pity of War: Explaining World War One, which with the help of research assistants he was able to write in just five months.[13][14] This is an analytic account of what Ferguson considered to be the ten great myths of the Great War. The book generated much controversy, particularly Ferguson's suggestion that it might have proved more beneficial for Europe if Britain had stayed out of the First World War in 1914, thereby allowing Germany to win.[41] Ferguson has argued that the British decision to intervene was what stopped a German victory in 1914–15. Furthermore, Ferguson expressed disagreement with the Sonderweg interpretation of German history championed by some German historians such as Fritz Fischer, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Hans Mommsen and Wolfgang Mommsen, who argued that the German Empire deliberately started an aggressive war in 1914. Likewise, Ferguson has often attacked the work of the German historian Michael Stürmer, who argued that it was Germany's geographical situation in Central Europe that determined the course of German history.

On the contrary, Ferguson maintained that Germany waged a preventive war in 1914, a war largely forced on the Germans by reckless and irresponsible British diplomacy. In particular, Ferguson accused the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey of maintaining an ambiguous attitude to the question of whether Britain would enter the war or not, and thus confusing Berlin over just what was the British attitude towards the question of intervention in the war.[42] Ferguson accused London of unnecessarily allowing a regional war in Europe to escalate into a world war. Moreover, Ferguson denied that the origins of National Socialism could be traced back to Imperial Germany; instead Ferguson asserted the origins of Nazism could only be traced back to the First World War and its aftermath.

Ferguson attacked a number of ideas that he called "myths" in the book. They are listed here (with his counter-arguments in parentheses):

  • Germany was a highly militarist country before 1914. (Ferguson argued that Germany was Europe's most anti-militarist country when compared to countries like Britain and France.)[43]
  • The naval threat posed by Germany drove Britain into an informal alliance with France and Russia before 1914. (Ferguson argues that the British decided to align themselves with Russia and France seeing them as more influential and powerful than Germany.)[44]
  • British policy was due to a legitimate fear of Germany. (Ferguson shows how Germany posed no significant threat to Britain and British fears were driven by propaganda and economic self interest.)[45]
  • The pre-1914 arms race was consuming increasingly larger portions of national budgets at an unsustainable rate. (Ferguson demonstrates using actual budget information of the European powers that the only limitations on more military spending before 1914 were political, not economic.)[46]
  • That World War I was an act of aggression on the part of Germany that provoked the British to stop Germany from conquering Europe. (Ferguson infers that if Germany had been victorious over France and Russia, something like the European Union would have been created in 1914. It would have been for the best if Britain had chosen to opt out of war in 1914, as Germany just wanted its "place in the sun.")[47]
  • Most people were enthusiastic when the war started in 1914. (Ferguson claims that most Europeans were saddened by the start of war, especially when it dragged on long after it was supposed to end.)[48]
  • That propaganda was successful in making men wish to fight. (Ferguson states that propaganda was not nearly as effective as most experts argue.)[49]
  • The Allies utilized their economic resources to the fullest. (Ferguson argues that the allies made poor use of their vast economic resources such as those coming from their colonies as well as corruption in the war time governments. France and Britain both possessed huge colonial possessions that offered a plethora of resources as well as man power.)[50]
  • That the British and the French possessed better armies than the central powers. (Ferguson claims that the German Army was superior, with better equipment and leadership.)[51]
  • The Allies were better at killing Germans throughout the war. (Ferguson statistically shows that the Germans were actually far superior in exacting casualties than the Allies; this was due to German strategy and use of poison gas.)[52]
  • The majority of soldiers hated fighting in the war due to intolerable conditions. (Ferguson asserts that most soldiers fought due to nationalism and a sense of duty.)[53]
  • The British treated German prisoners more humanely than the Germans did. (Ferguson cites numerous occasions in which British officers ordered the killing of German prisoners of war.)[54]
  • Germany was faced with reparations that could not be paid except at the expense of the German economy. (Ferguson attempts to prove that Germany could have paid reparations if they had been willing.)[55]

Another controversial aspect of The Pity of War is Ferguson's use of counterfactual history also known as "speculative" or "hypothetical" history. In the book, Ferguson presents a hypothetical version of Europe being, under Imperial German domination, a peaceful, prosperous, democratic continent, without ideologies like communism or fascism.[56] In Ferguson's view, had Germany won World War I, then the lives of millions would have been saved, something like the European Union would have been founded in 1914, and Britain would have remained an empire as well as the world's dominant financial power.[56]


Ferguson wrote two volumes about the prominent Rothschild family:

  • The House of Rothschild: Volume 1: Money's Prophets: 1798–1848[57]
  • The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World's Banker: 1849–1999[58]

The books won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History and were also short-listed for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Award and the American National Jewish Book Award.[28]

Counterfactual history

Ferguson sometimes champions counterfactual history, also known as "speculative" or "hypothetical" history, and edited a collection of essays, titled Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (1997), exploring the subject.

Ferguson likes to imagine alternative outcomes as a way of stressing the contingent aspects of history. For Ferguson, great forces don't make history; individuals do, and nothing is predetermined. Thus, for Ferguson, there are no paths in history that will determine how things will work out. The world is neither progressing nor regressing; only the actions of individuals determine whether we will live in a better or worse world.

His championing of the method has been controversial within the field.[59]

In a 2011 review of Ferguson's book Civilization: The West and the Rest, Noel Malcolm (Senior Research Fellow in History at All Souls College at Oxford University) stated that: "Students may find this an intriguing introduction to a wide range of human history; but they will get an odd idea of how historical argument is to be conducted, if they learn it from this book."[60]

Henry Kissinger

In 2003, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger provided Ferguson with access to his White House diaries, letters, and archives for what Ferguson calls a "warts-and-all biography" of Kissinger.[61]


Ferguson is critical of what he calls the "self-flagellation" that he says characterises modern European thought.

"The moral simplification urge is an extraordinarily powerful one, especially in this country, where imperial guilt can lead to self-flagellation," he told a reporter. "And it leads to very simplistic judgments. The rulers of western Africa prior to the European empires were not running some kind of scout camp. They were engaged in the slave trade. They showed zero sign of developing the country's economic resources. Did Senegal ultimately benefit from French rule? Yes, it's clear. And the counterfactual idea that somehow the indigenous rulers would have been more successful in economic development doesn't have any credibility at all."[17]

Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at the University of London, has stated that it is correct to associate "Ferguson with an attempt to 'rehabilitate empire' in the service of contemporary great power interests".[62]

Bernard Porter attacked Empire in The London Review of Books as a "panegyric to British colonialism".[63] Ferguson in response to this drew Porter's attention to the conclusion of the book, where he writes: "No one would claim that the record of the British Empire was unblemished. On the contrary, I have tried to show how often it failed to live up to its own ideal of individual liberty, particularly in the early era of enslavement, transportation and the 'ethnic cleansing' of indigenous peoples." Ferguson argues however that the British Empire was preferable to the alternatives:

"The 19th-century empire undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour. It invested immense sums in developing a global network of modern communications. It spread and enforced the rule of law over vast areas. Though it fought many small wars, the empire maintained a global peace unmatched before or since. In the 20th century too the empire more than justified its own existence. For the alternatives to British rule represented by the German and Japanese empires were clearly – and they admitted it themselves – far worse. And without its empire, it is inconceivable that Britain could have withstood them."[63]

Exchange with Pankaj Mishra

In November 2011 Pankaj Mishra reviewed Civilisation: The West and the Rest unfavourably in the London Review of Books.[64] Ferguson demanded an apology and threatened to sue Mishra on charges of libel due to allegations of racism.[65]

Islam and "Eurabia"

Matthew Carr wrote in Race & Class that

"Niall Ferguson, the conservative English [sic] historian and enthusiastic advocate of a new American empire, has also embraced the Eurabian idea in a widely reproduced article entitled 'Eurabia?',"[66]

in which he laments the 'de-Christianization of Europe' and its culture of secularism that leaves the continent 'weak in the face of fanaticism'." Carr adds that

"Ferguson sees the recent establishment of a department of Islamic studies in his Oxford college as another symptom of 'the creeping Islamicization of a decadent Christendom",

and that in a 2004 lecture at the American Enterprise Institute entitled 'The End of Europe?',[67]

"Ferguson struck a similarly Spenglerian note, conjuring the term 'impire' to depict a process in which a 'political entity, instead of expanding outwards towards its periphery, exporting power, implodes – when the energies come from outside into that entity'. In Ferguson's opinion, this process was already under way in a decadent 'post-Christian' Europe that was drifting inexorably towards the dark denouement of a vanquished civilisation and the fatal embrace of Islam."[68]

Iraq War

Ferguson supported the 2003 Iraq War, and he is on record as not necessarily opposed to future western incursions around the world.

"It's all very well for us to sit here in the West with our high incomes and cushy lives, and say it's immoral to violate the sovereignty of another state. But if the effect of that is to bring people in that country economic and political freedom, to raise their standard of living, to increase their life expectancy, then don't rule it out".[17]

Economic policy

In its 15 August 2005 edition, The New Republic published "The New New Deal", an essay by Ferguson and Laurence J. Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. The two scholars called for the following changes to the American government's fiscal and income security policies:

  • Replacing the personal income tax, corporate income tax, Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA), estate tax, and gift tax with a 33% Federal Retail Sales Tax (FRST), plus a monthly rebate, amounting to the amount of FRST that a household with similar demographics would pay if its income were at the poverty line. See also: FairTax
  • Replacing the old age benefits paid under Social Security with a Personal Security System, consisting of private retirement accounts for all citizens, plus a government benefit payable to those whose savings were insufficient to afford a minimum retirement income
  • Replacing Medicare and Medicaid with a Medical Security System that would provide health insurance vouchers to all citizens, the value of which would be determined by one's health
  • Cutting federal discretionary spending by 20%

In November 2012, Ferguson stated in a video with CNN that the U.S. has enough energy resources to move towards energy independence and could possibly enter a new economic golden age due to the related socio-economic growth—coming out of the post-world economic recession doldrums.[69]

Ferguson was an attendee of the 2012 Bilderberg Group meeting, where he was a speaker on economic policy.[70]

Exchanges with Paul Krugman

In May 2009, Ferguson became involved in a high-profile exchange of views with economist Paul Krugman (2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics) arising out of a panel discussion hosted by PEN/New York Review on 30 April 2009, regarding the U.S. economy. Ferguson contended that the Obama administration's policies are simultaneously Keynesian and monetarist, in an "incoherent" mix, and specifically claimed that the government's issuance of a multitude of new bonds would cause an increase in interest rates.[71]

Krugman argued that Ferguson's view is "resurrecting 75-year old fallacies" and full of "basic errors". He also stated that Ferguson is a "poseur" who "hasn't bothered to understand the basics, relying on snide comments and surface cleverness to convey the impression of wisdom. It's all style, no comprehension of substance."[72][73][74][75]

In 2012, Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said that subsequent events had shown Ferguson to be wrong: "As we all know, since then both the US and UK have had deficits running at historically extremely high levels, and long-term interest rates at historic lows: as Krugman has repeatedly pointed out, the (IS-LM) textbook has been spot on."[76]

Later in 2012, after Ferguson wrote a cover story for Newsweek arguing that Mitt Romney should be elected in the upcoming US presidential election, Krugman wrote that there were multiple errors and misrepresentations in the story, concluding "We're not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here – just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?"[77] Ferguson denied that he had misrepresented the facts in an online rebuttal.[78] Matthew O'Brien countered that Ferguson was still distorting the meaning of the CBO report being discussed, and that the entire piece could be read as an effort to deceive.[79]

In 2013, Ferguson, naming Dean Baker, Josh Barro, Brad DeLong, Matthew O'Brien, Noah Smith, Matthew Yglesias and Justin Wolfers, attacked "Krugman and his acolytes," in his three-part essay on why he hates Paul Krugman,[80] whose title is originally made by Noah Smith.[81]

Remarks on Keynes' sexual orientation

At a May 2013 investment conference in Carlsbad, California, Ferguson was asked about his views on economist John Maynard Keynes's quotation that "in the long run we are all dead." Ferguson stated that Keynes was indifferent to the future because he was gay and did not have children.[82]

The remarks were widely criticised for being offensive, factually inaccurate, and a distortion of Keynes' ideas.[83][84]

Ferguson posted an apology for these statements shortly after reports of his words were widely disseminated, saying his comments were "as stupid as they were insensitive".[85] In the apology, Ferguson stated: "My disagreements with Keynes's economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life."[86]

Personal life

Ferguson married journalist Susan Douglas, whom he met in 1987 when she was his editor at the Daily Mail. They have three children.[87]

In February 2010, news media reported that Ferguson had separated from Douglas and started dating former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[88][89][90] Ferguson and Douglas divorced in 2011.

Ferguson married Hirsi Ali in September 2011[91] and Hirsi Ali gave birth to their son in December 2011.[92][93][94]

Ferguson dedicated his book Civilization to "Ayaan". In an interview with The Guardian, Ferguson spoke about his love for Ali, who, he writes in the preface, "understands better than anyone I know what Western civilisation really means – and what it still has to offer the world".[17] Ali, he continued,

...grew up in the Muslim world, was born in Somalia, spent time in Saudi Arabia, was a fundamentalist as a teenager. Her journey from the world of her childhood and family to where she is today is an odyssey that's extremely hard for you or I to imagine. To see and hear how she understands western philosophy, how she understands the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, of the 19th-century liberal era, is a great privilege, because she sees it with a clarity and freshness of perspective that's really hard for us to match. So much of liberalism in its classical sense is taken for granted in the west today and even disrespected. We take freedom for granted, and because of this we don't understand how incredibly vulnerable it is.[17]

Ferguson's self confessed workaholism has placed strains on his personal relations in the past. Ferguson has commented that:

...from 2002, the combination of making TV programmes and teaching at Harvard took me away from my children too much. You don't get those years back. You have to ask yourself: "Was it a smart decision to do those things?" I think the success I have enjoyed since then has been bought at a significant price. In hindsight, there would have been a bunch of things that I would have said no to.[12]

Ferguson was the inspiration for Alan Bennett's play The History Boys (2004), particularly the character of Irwin, a history teacher who urges his pupils to find a counterintuitive angle, and goes on to become a television historian.[8] Bennett's character "Irwin" gives the impression that "an entire career can be built on the trick of contrariness."[8]



  • Ferguson, Niall (2015). Kissinger: 1923–1968: The Idealist. New York:  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2013). The Great Degeneration.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2011). Civilization: The West and the Rest. The Penguin Press HC.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2010). High Financier: The Lives and Times of Siegmund Warburg. New York: Penguin.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2008).  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2006). The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred. London: Allen Lane. [37] 70839824 (also a Channel 4 series)OCLC American ed. has the title: The war of the World: Twentieth-century Conflict and the Descent of the West  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2005). 1914. Pocket Penguins 70s S. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2004). Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2003). Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World. London:
    • Ferguson, Niall (2003). Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: American edition.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (2001). The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700–2000. London: Allen Lane.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (1999) [1997]. Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals. New York: Basic Books.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (1999) [1998]. The Pity of War. New York: Basic Books.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (1999). The House of Rothschild: The World's Banker, 1849–1999. New York, N.Y.:
    • Ferguson, Niall (1998). The World's Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild. London:  
    • Ferguson, Niall (1998). The House of Rothschild. New York: Viking.  
  • Ferguson, Niall (1995). Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation, 1897–1927. Cambridge, UK:  

As contributor

  • "Let Germany Keep Its Nerve", The Spectator, 22 April 1995, pages 21–23[95]
  • “Europa nervosa”, in Nader Mousavizadeh (ed.), The Black Book of Bosnia (New Republic/Basic Books, 1996), pp. 127–32
  • “The German inter-war economy: Political choice versus economic determinism” in Mary Fulbrook (ed.), German History since 1800 (Arnold, 1997), pp. 258–278
  • “The balance of payments question: Versailles and after” in Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (eds.), The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 401–440
  • “‘The Caucasian Royal Family’: The Rothschilds in national contexts” in R. Liedtke (ed.), ‘Two Nations’: The Historical Experience of British and German Jews in Comparison (J.C.B. Mohr, 1999)
  • “Academics and the Press”, in Stephen Glover (ed.), Secrets of the Press: Journalists on Journalism (Penguin, 1999), pp. 206–220
  • “Metternich and the Rothschilds: A reappraisal” in Andrea Hamel and Edward Timms (eds.), Progress and Emancipation in the Age of Metternich: Jews and Modernisation in Austria and Germany, 1815–1848 (Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), pp. 295–325
  • “The European economy, 1815–1914” in T.C.W. Blanning (ed.), The Short Oxford History of Europe: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 78–125
  • “How (not) to pay for the war: Traditional finance and total war” in Roger Chickering and Stig Förster (eds.), Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front (Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 409–34
  • “Introduction” in Frederic Manning, Middle Parts of Fortune (Penguin, 2000), pp. vii–xviii
  • “Clashing civilizations or mad mullahs: The United States between informal and formal empire” in Strobe Talbott (ed.), The Age of Terror (Basic Books, 2001), pp. 113–41
  • “Public debt as a post-war problem: The German experience after 1918 in comparative perspective” in Mark Roseman (ed.), Three Post-War Eras in Comparison: Western Europe 1918-1945-1989 (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002), pp. 99–119
  • “Das Haus Sachsen-Coburg und die europäische Politik des 19. Jahrhunderts”, in Rainer von Hessen (ed.), Victoria Kaiserin Friedrich (1840–1901): Mission und Schicksal einer englischen Prinzessin in Deutschland (Campus Verlag, 2002), pp. 27–39
  • “Max Warburg and German politics: The limits of financial power in Wilhelmine Germany”, in Geoff Eley and James Retallack (eds.), Wilhelminism and Its Legacies: German Modernities, Imperialism and the Meaning of Reform, 1890–1930 (Berghahn Books, 2003), pp. 185–201
  • “Introduction”, The Death of the Past by J. H. Plumb (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. xxi–xlii
  • “Globalization in historical perspective: The political dimension”, in Michael D. Bordo, Alan M. Taylor and Jeffrey G. Williamson (eds.), Globalisation in Historical Perspective (National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report) (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
  • “Introduction to Tzvetan Todorov” in Nicholas Owen (ed.), Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Oxford Amnesty Lectures (Amnesty International, 2003)
  • “The City of London and British imperialism: New light on an old question”, in Youssef Cassis and Eric Bussière (eds.), London and Paris as International Financial Centres in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 57–77
  • “A bolt from the blue? The City of London and the outbreak of the First World War”, in Wm. Roger Louis (ed.), Yet More Adventures with Britainnia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain (I.B. Tauris, 2005), pp. 133–145
  • “The first ‘Eurobonds’: The Rothschilds and the financing of the Holy Alliance, 1818–1822”, in William N. Goetzmann and K. Geert Rouwenhorst (eds.), The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations that Created Modern Capital Markets (Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 311–323
  • “Prisoner taking and prisoner killing in the age of total war”, in George Kassemiris (ed.), The Barbarization of Warfare (New York University Press, 2006), pp. 126–158
  • “The Second World War as an economic disaster”, in Michael Oliver (ed.), Economic Disasters of the Twentieth Century (Edward Elgar, 2007), pp. 83–132
  • “The Problem of Conjecture: American Strategy after the Bush Doctrine”, in Melvyn Leffler and Jeff Legro (eds.), To Lead the World: American Strategy After the Bush Doctrine (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Television documentaries

BBC Reith Lectures

Niall Ferguson recording the third of his 2012 BBC Reith Lecture at Gresham College

In May 2012 the BBC announced Niall Ferguson was to present its annual Reith Lectures – a prestigious series of radio lectures which were first broadcast in 1948. These four lectures, titled The Rule of Law and its Enemies, examine the role man-made institutions have played in the economic and political spheres.[96]

In the first lecture, held at the London School of Economics, titled The Human Hive, Ferguson argues for greater openness from governments, saying they should publish accounts which clearly state all assets and liabilities. Governments, he said, should also follow the lead of business and adopt the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and, above all, generational accounts should be prepared on a regular basis to make absolutely clear the inter-generational implications of current fiscal policy. In the lecture, Ferguson says young voters should be more supportive of government austerity measures if they do not wish to pay further down the line for the profligacy of the baby boomer generation.[97]

In the second lecture, The Darwinian Economy, Ferguson reflects on the causes of the global financial crisis, and erroneous conclusions that many people have drawn from it about the role of regulation, such as whether it is in fact “the disease of which it purports to be the cure".

The Landscape of Law was the third lecture, delivered at Gresham College. It examines the rule of law in comparative terms, asking how far the common law's claims to superiority over other systems are credible, and whether we are living through a time of 'creeping legal degeneration' in the English-speaking world.

The fourth and final lecture, Civil and Uncivil Societies, focuses on institutions (outside the political, economic and legal realms) designed to preserve and transmit particular knowledge and values. It asks whether the modern state is quietly killing civil society in the Western world, and what non-Western societies can do to build a vibrant civil society.

The first lecture was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service on Tuesday, 19 June 2012.[98] The series is available as a BBC podcast.[99]

See also



  1. ^ Biography Niall Ferguson
  2. ^ "Harvard University History Department — Faculty: Niall Ferguson". Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Ferguson, Niall (30 November 2012). "Turning Points".  
  4. ^ "Niall Ferguson Says China `Hard Landing' Unlikely". 29 September 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Spain Bank Crisis Is Not Over, Niall Ferguson Says". 11 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Why Obama Needs to Go", Newsweek, 9 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Newsweek's anti-Obama cover story: Has the magazine lost all credibility?" The Week, 21 August 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Smith, David (18 June 2006). "Niall Ferguson: The empire rebuilder". The Observer (Guardian News and Media). 
  9. ^ a b c Templeton, Tom (18 January 2009). "This much I know: Niall Ferguson, historian, 44, London". The Observer. 
  10. ^ Tassel, Janet (2007). "The Global Empire of Niall Ferguson".  
  11. ^ Ferguson, Niall (4 January 2008). "Niall Ferguson on Belief".  
  12. ^ a b c Duncan, Alistair (19 March 2011). "Niall Ferguson: My family values". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). 
  13. ^ a b c Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow Hoover Institution, 30 November 2011.
  14. ^ a b c d Robert Boynton "Thinking the Unthinkable: A profile of Niall Ferguson", The New Yorker, 12 April 1999.
  15. ^ Dissertation Abstracts International: The Humanities and Social sciences 53. University Microfilms. 1993. p. 3318. 
  16. ^ "LSE IDEAS appoints Professor Niall Ferguson to chair in international history".  
  17. ^ a b c d e f g William Skidelsky (20 February 2011). "'"Niall Ferguson: 'Westerners don't understand how vulnerable freedom is. The Observer. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  18. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (31 May 2010). "Empire strikes back: rightwing historian to get curriculum role". (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Cook, Chris (5 June 2011). "Star professors set up humanities college".  ()
  20. ^ Benjamin Wallace-Wells "Right Man's Burden", Washington Monthly, June 2004.
  21. ^ "The Last Empire, for Now". New York Times. 25 July 2004. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  22. ^ Eric Hobsbawm, Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism (Abacus, 2008).
  23. ^ Start the Week, BBC Radio 4, 12 June 2006.
  24. ^ Ferguson, Niall (7 November 2006). "Book World Live".  
  25. ^ Laurent, Lionel (30 September 2007). "Meet The Hedge Fund Historian". Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  26. ^ "GLG Company Description". Retrieved 20 December 2008. 
  27. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (23 October 2007). "Niall Ferguson joins FT". MediaGuardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  28. ^ a b c "Niall Ferguson: Biography". Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  29. ^ "The End of Europe?". American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 4 March 2004. 
  30. ^ Ferguson, Niall (1 May 2005). "Look back at Weimar – and start to worry about Russia". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  31. ^ Porter, Andrew (April 2003). "Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World". Reviews in History. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  32. ^ Wilson, Jon (8 February 2003). "False and dangerous: Revisionist TV history of Britain's empire is an attempt to justify the new imperial order". (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  33. ^ Waslekar, Sundeep (July 2006). "A Review of: Colossus by Prof Niall Ferguson". Strategic Foresight Group. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  34. ^ Roberts, Adam (14 May 2004). "Colossus by Niall Ferguson: An empire in deep denial". The Independent. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  35. ^ "100 Notable Books of the Year".  
  36. ^ Ferguson, Niall. "Empire and globalisation". Channel 4. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  37. ^ a b "The War of the World". Channel 4. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  38. ^ McRae, Hamish (31 October 2008). "The Ascent of Money, By Niall Ferguson". The Independent. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  39. ^ Sasha Talcott, "Spotlight: Niall Ferguson", Belfer Center.
  40. ^ "Civilization: Is the West History?". Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  41. ^ Ferguson, Niall The Pity of War, Basic Books: New York, 1998, 1999 pp. 460–461.
  42. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 154–156.
  43. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 27–30.
  44. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 52–55.
  45. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 68–76.
  46. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 87–101 & 118–125.
  47. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 168–173.
  48. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 197–205.
  49. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 239–247
  50. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 267–277.
  51. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 310–317.
  52. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 336–338.
  53. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War,(1998, 1999), pp. 357–366.
  54. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 380–388.
  55. ^ Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 412–431.
  56. ^ a b Ferguson, The Pity of War (1998, 1999), pp. 168–173 & 460–461.
  57. ^ Ferguson, Niall (1999). The House of Rothschild: Money's Prophets, 1798–1848. Volume 1. New York: Penguin Books.  
  58. ^ Ferguson, Niall (2000). The House of Rothschild: The World's Banker 1849–1998. Volume 2. New York: Penguin Books.  
  59. ^ Kreisler, Harry (3 November 2003). "Conversation with Niall Ferguson: Being a Historian". Conversations with History. Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 15 July 2008. 
  60. ^ Malcolm, Noel (13 March 2011). "Civilisation: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson: review".  
  61. ^ Hagan, Joe (27 November 2006). "The Once and Future Kissinger". New York Magazine. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  62. ^ "Letters: The British empire and deaths in Kenya". The Guardian. 16 June 2010. 
  63. ^ a b Tell me where I’m wrong London Review of Books, 19 May 2005
  64. ^ Mishra, Pankaj (3 November 2011). "Watch this man (review of ‘Civilisation’ by Niall Ferguson)". London Review of Books 33 (21): 10–12. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  65. ^ Beaumont, Peter (26 November 2011). "Niall Ferguson threatens to sue over accusation of racism". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  66. ^ Niall Ferguson The way we live now: 4-4-04; Eurabia? New York Times, 4 April 2004
  67. ^ Niall Ferguson The end of Europe? American Enterprise Institute Bradley Lecture, 1 March 2004
  68. ^ Carr, M. (2006). "You are now entering Eurabia". Race & Class 48: 1–0.  
  69. ^ "Top News Today | New age of U.S. prosperity? | Home |". 23 November 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  70. ^
  71. ^ Joe Weisenthal (6 May 2013). "Niall Ferguson's Horrible Track Record On Economics".  
  72. ^ Paul Krugman (2 May 2009). "Liquidity preference, loanable funds, and Niall Ferguson (wonkish)". New York Times. 
  73. ^ Paul Krugman (22 May 2009). "Gratuitous ignorance". New York Times. 
  74. ^ The Conscience of a Liberal
  75. ^ Paul Krugman (17 August 2009). "Black cats". New York Times. 
  76. ^ Portes, Jonathan (25 June 2012). "Macroeconomics: what is it good for? [a response to Diane Coyle]". Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  77. ^ Kavoussi, Bonnie (20 August 2012). "'"Paul Krugman Bashes Niall Ferguson's Newsweek Cover Story As 'Unethical. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  78. ^ Ferguson, Niall. "Ferguson's Newsweek Cover Rebuttal: Paul Krugman Is Wrong". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  79. ^ O'Brien, Matthew. "The Age of Niallism: Ferguson and the Post-Fact World".  
  80. ^ Niall Ferguson, Krugtron the Invincible, Part 1, Krugtron the Invincible, Part 2, Krugtron the Invincible, Part 3
  81. ^ Noah Smith, KrugTron the Invincible
  82. ^ Paul Harris (4 May 2013): Niall Ferguson apologises for remarks about 'gay and childless' Keynes The Guardian, retrieved 7 May 2013
  83. ^  
  84. ^ Kostigen, Tom. "Harvard Professor Trashes Keynes For Homosexuality". 
  85. ^ Harris, Paul (4 May 2012). "Niall Ferguson apologises for remarks about 'gay and childless' Keynes".  
  86. ^ Niall Ferguson (5 May 2013): An Unqualified Apology Homesite, retrieved 7 May 2013
  87. ^ Lynn, Matthew (23 August 2009). "Professor Paul Krugman at war with Niall Ferguson over inflation". Times Online. Retrieved 25 October 2009. (subscription required)
  88. ^ Gray, Sadie (14 February 2010). "PROFILE: Niall Ferguson". Times Online. (subscription required)
  89. ^ Hale, Beth (8 February 2010). "The historian, his wife and a mistress living under a fatwa". Mail Online (Associated Newspapers). 
  90. ^ "Niall Ferguson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali". The Independent. 25 February 2010. 
  91. ^ Eden, Richard (18 December 2011). "Henry Kissinger watches historian Niall Ferguson marry Ayaan Hirsi Ali under a fatwa". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  92. ^ Numann, Jessica (30 December 2011). "Ayaan Hirsi Ali (42) bevalt van een zoon".  
  93. ^ "Ayaan Hirsi Ali gives birth to baby boy". 30 December 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  94. ^ "Ayaan Hirsi Ali is bevallen van zoon Thomas". Volkskrant. 30 December 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  95. ^ "Brad DeLong : Keynesian Economics: The Gay Science?". 7 May 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  96. ^ "Historian Niall Ferguson named 2012 BBC Reith Lecturer". BBC News. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  97. ^ Niall, Prof (17 June 2012). "Viewpoint: Why the young should welcome austerity". BBC News. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  98. ^ BBC Radio 4 – The Reith Lectures
  99. ^ BBC – Podcasts and Downloads – Reith Lectures

General references

  • Snowman, Daniel (October 2004). "Niall Ferguson". History Today 54 (10): 37–39. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  • Ferguson, Niall (1999). The Pity of War. New York: Basic Books.  
  • "The Ascent of Money", Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
  • "Audio: Niall Ferguson in conversation", The Forum, BBC World Service
  • Hans Koning, "Still Not Over Over There?", The Nation, August 1999 – Review of The Pity of War
  • Martin Rubin, "A Banker to the Rescue",, 26 June 2010
  • Liaquat Ahamed, "Yesterday's Banker",, 30 July 2010
  • "The Sun Sets in the West", Oxonian Review, 4 April 2011 – Review of Civilization
  • "An Interview with Niall Ferguson", Oxonian Review, 9 April 2011
  • "Niall Ferguson and the brain-dead American right", 24 May 2011

External links

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