Belfer Center Home > People > Niall Ferguson

« Back to list of experts

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

 

Experience

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

He has published fourteen books. His first, Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927, was short-listed for the History Today Book of the Year award, while the collection of essays he edited, Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, was a UK bestseller. In 1998 he published to international critical acclaim The Pity of War: Explaining World War One and The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild. The latter won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History and was also short-listed for the Jewish Quarterly/Wingate Literary Award and the American National Jewish Book Award. In 2001, after a year as a Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England, he published The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000.

In 2003 Ferguson wrote and presented a six-part history of the British Empire for Channel 4, the UK terrestrial broadcaster. The accompanying book, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, was a bestseller in both Britain and the United States. The sequel, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, was published in 2004 by Penguin, and prompted Time magazine to name him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Two years later he published The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West, a television adaptation of which was screened by PBS in 2007. The international bestseller, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, followed in 2008; it too was a PBS series, winning the International Emmy award for Best Documentary, as well as the Handelszeitung Economics Book Prize. In 2011 he published Civilization: The West and the Rest, also a Channel 4/PBS documentary series. A year later came the three-part television series “China: Triumph and Turmoil”.

An accomplished biographer, Ferguson published High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg in 2010 and is currently writing a life of Henry Kissinger, the first volume of which will be published later this year. In 2011 his film company Chimerica Media released its first feature-length documentary, “Kissinger”, which won the New York Film Festival’s prize for Best Documentary. His most recent book is The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (2013), was a New York Times bestseller within a week of its publication.

Ferguson was the Philippe Roman Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics in 2010-11 and the BBC Reith Lecturer for 2012. He is a member of the board of trustees of the American Academy in Berlin, the Museum of American Finance and the New York Historical Society. His many prizes and awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013). Last year he was named as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In addition to writing regularly for newspapers and magazines around the world, he is the founder and Managing Director of Greenmantle LLC, a Cambridge-based advisory firm. He also serves on the board of Affiliated Managers Group.

Niall Ferguson is married to the acclaimed author and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He has four children.

 

 

By Date

 

2015

September/October Issue

"The Meaning of Kissinger"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Foreign Affairs

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

There are reasons other than his longevity why so many world leaders—among them the Chinese President Xi Jinping—continue to seek the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who stepped down as U.S. secretary of state close to four decades ago. In this respect, Barack Obama is unusual. He is the first U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower not to seek Kissinger’s advice. Periodically, commentators urge Obama to be more “Kissingerian.” Others argue that he is Kissinger­ian in practice, if not in rhetoric. But what exactly does the term mean?

The conventional answer equates Kissinger with realism, a philosophy characterized by the cool assessment of foreign policy in the stark light of national self-interest, or, in the journalist Anthony Lewis’ phrase, “an obsession with order and power at the expense of humanity.” Writing in 1983, Kissinger’s former Harvard colleague Stanley Hoffmann depicted Kissinger as a Machiavellian “who believe[s] that the preservation of the state . . . requires both ruthlessness and deceit at the expense of foreign and internal adversaries.” Many writers have simply assumed that Kissinger modeled himself on his supposed heroes, the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich and the Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck, the standard-bearers of classical European realpolitik.

Yet the international relations scholar Hans Morgenthau, who truly was a realist, once memorably described Kissinger as, like Odysseus, “many-sided.” In the early 1960s, for example, when the agonizing question arose of how much the United States should shore up the government of South Vietnam, Kissinger initially believed that South Vietnam’s right to self-determination was worth U.S. lives. Morgenthau, the authentic realist, vehemently disagreed.

 

 

(AP Photo)

August 28, 2015

"'Chimerica' and the Rule of the Central Bankers"

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In an August 28 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Niall Ferguson writes: "Two years after the taper tantrum, this was the week of the Chimerican chill. Economist Moritz Schularick and I coined the word Chimerica in these pages in 2007, combining China and America, to describe the symbiotic relationship increasingly dominating the world economy. That is even truer now, as the past several days have shown. For the first time in financial history, a sneeze in Shanghai gave Wall Street—and almost every other stock market in the world—a cold."

 

 

July 24, 2015

"The Iran Deal and the ‘Problem of Conjecture’"

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In making the case for his nuclear-arms-control deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Obama has confronted Congress with a stark choice. "There really are only two alternatives here," he declared at last week's press conference. "Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it's resolved through force, through war."

This binary argument is so central to his administration's case that the president provided a second formulation: Without the deal, he said, "we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world."

 

 

July 3, 2015

"The nasty Greek outcomes that democracy precludes"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, written in the invented language “Nadsat,” the degenerate hooligan Alex ultimately resolves to settle down. “Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning vonny earth,” wrote Burgess, “and your old droog Alex all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate.” Burgess’s US publisher thought this ending too happy, and axed the final chapter.

 

 

International Monetary Fund

June 1, 2015

"More Keynesian than Keynes"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

CAMBRIDGE – Like most people who create an “ism,” John Maynard Keynes quickly found his followers running ahead of him. “You are more Keynesian than I am,” he once told a young American economist. Now it is the turn of his biographer, Robert Skidelsky, to become distinctly more Keynesian than Keynes.

 

 

May 19, 2015

"The Economic Consequences of Mr. Osborne"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

CAMBRIDGE – “If the facts change,” John Maynard Keynes is supposed to have said, “I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” It is a question his latter-day disciples should be asking themselves now.

 

 

May 11, 2015

"The Rise and Fall of Krugmania in the UK"

Op-Ed, The Huffington Post

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

It is already conventional to name the former party leaders Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage as the biggest losers of the British general election, closely followed by all the opinion pollsters and the narcissistic comedian Russell Brand. But this is to understate the abject defeat suffered by some Keynesian economists, and in particular the Nobel prize winning former Princeton professor Paul Krugman.

 

 

May 3, 2015

"I'll take the high road to London"

Op-Ed, The Sunday Times

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

‘The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees,” declared Dr Johnson, “is the high road that leads him to England!”

It is very doubtful that either Alex Salmond or the Scottish National party’s new leader, Nicola Sturgeon, would agree. Nevertheless, if Salmond wakes up on May 8 as the newly elected MP for the Aberdeenshire constituency of Gordon, the prospect that will greet him will indeed be the high road to England.

 

 

Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 13, 2015

"The meaning of the Minsk agreement"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The world loves a peace agreement. The beauty of any deal like the Ukraine ceasefire agreed in the early hours of Thursday morning is that it can be presented in two equally interesting ways. Either it is “Camp David”, a transcendent moment of reconciliation between sworn enemies. Or it is “Munich”, a lapse back into the appeasement of dictators.

 

2014

(Sipa via AP Images)

November 26, 2014

"K of the Castle"

Op-Ed, TLS (Times Literary Supplement)

By Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Niall Ferguson writes about Henry Kissinger's most recent book, World Order.

Henry Kissinger does not dwell in detail on Obama’s record of strategic incoherence in this magisterial meditation on the international system. Yet it is not too difficult to read between the lines that this book has been inspired at least partly by dismay at the amateurism of the past six years and dread of the risks inherent in the strategy-less approach.

 
Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.