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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, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing.

He is the author of 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. His other books include Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, Civilization: The West and the Rest, and The Great Degeneration.

An accomplished biographer, Ferguson is also the author of High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg (2010) and is currently writing a life of Henry Kissinger, the first volume of which—Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist—has just been published to critical acclaim.

He is an award-making filmmaker, too, having won an international Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money. His many other 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).

In addition to writing a weekly column for the Sunday Times (London) and the Boston Globe, he is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, a Cambridge-based advisory firm.

 

 

By Date

 

2016

Pixabay

May 16, 2016

"Welcome to 1984"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

In “Notes from Underground,’’ Dostoevsky fired a broadside against all the Victorian do-gooders who dreamt of a perfectly rational society. “You seem certain that man himself will give up erring of his own free will,” he fulminated. He foresaw a ghastly future in which “all human acts will be listed in something like logarithm tables . . . and transferred to a timetable . . . [that] will carry detailed calculations and exact forecasts of everything to come.” In such a world, his utilitarian contemporaries believed, there would be no wrongdoing. It would have been planned, legislated, and regulated out of existence.

 

 

Greg Richter

May 11, 2016

"Keep calm — the Constitution will constrain Trump"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

I am not going to underestimate him again.

Back in January, in a moment of weakness, I believed the assurance of a supposed expert that Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination would fizzle out when “real voting in real primaries” began.

 

 

Pete Souza, White House

April 25, 2016

"Alexander and Charles"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

“You like tomayto, and I like tomahto,” crooned Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers in the 1937 caper “Shall We Dance.’’

The routine begins with an argument about the pronunciation not of “tomato” but of “either.” Also at issue are the words “neither,” “pyjamas,” “laughter,” “after,” “Havana,” “banana,” and “oysters.” As a middle-class Scotsman who has spent roughly half his adult life in the United States, I no longer have any idea what the “right” way to pronounce these words is.

But imagine all those words being uttered by Her Majesty the Queen. And then imagine them coming from the mouth of President Barack Obama. Never mind hearing them — merely to see the two heads of state together is to be reminded how very different the United Kingdom and the United States are.

 

 

UK Department for International Development

April 18, 2016

"The happy moron and Brexit"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

When I was a little boy, my mother liked to quote the following quatrain (sometimes attributed to the New York wit Dorothy Parker):

See the happy moron,

He doesn’t give a damn,

I wish I were a moron,

My God! perhaps I am!

I often think of the happy moron when I settle down to the read the International Monetary Fund’s semiannual publication, the World Economic Outlook. Almost without fail, this publication acknowledges that its previous projections were too optimistic and need to be revised downwards. The Fund’s economists then proceed to make new projections, surely knowing that they too will soon need to be revised downwards.

 

 

www.flickr.com

April 4, 2016

"Tay, Trump, and artificial stupidity"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

I have to admit that DeepMind’s AlphaGo computer had me worried when it trounced the world champion at the Chinese board game Go last month.

 

 

March 28, 2016

"It takes a network to defeat a network"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

The word of the week has been “network.” I have lost track of the number of times I have read that a terrorist network carried out last Tuesday’s lethal attacks in Brussels. The same is now being said about Sunday’s massacre in Lahore. Terrorists used to belong to “groups” and “organizations.” Increasingly, however, we say they belong to networks.

 

 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

March 14, 2016

"A 'catastrophe of epic proportions'"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

There is a powerful symbolism in the impending collapse of Iraq’s Mosul dam. Built on the cheap by Saddam Hussein in the early 1980s, it holds back up to 2.9 trillion gallons, roughly twice as much as Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. We all know what happened when Hurricane Katrina breached the levees around Pontchartrain’s south shore in 2005.

No hurricane is needed to breach the Mosul dam. Built on a weak foundation of soluble gypsum, its stability has always depended on continuous grouting. In 2007 the US Army Corps of Engineers, alarmed by what they had found after the invasion of Iraq, carried out repairs. But since the withdrawal of American forces, the dam has deteriorated. For several weeks in 2014 it came under the control of the Islamic State. Fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces is just one of the reasons the dam has fallen into disrepair. A contract with an Italian engineering company to overhaul the dam has only just been signed by the Iraqi government.

 

 

Michael Vadon

February 28, 2016

"Trump doesn't wear jackboots -- but we need to stamp on his populism"

Op-Ed, The Sunday Times

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

Panic is setting in. "Watching Donald Trump's rise, I now understand ... exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany." Thus my Harvard colleague, the political theorist Danielle Allen.

"[Trump's] remedy is 1930s to the core: nationalism, crude bombast, mytho-history and sloganeering." Thus Victor Davis Hanson, also a colleague at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

 

 

(AP/Richard Drew)

February 15, 2016

"Financial Panic or Slow Burn?"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

"In the best-known scene of 'The Revenant,’ Leonardo DiCaprio is hideously mauled by a bear. The world’s investors now know exactly how that feels."

In this op-ed, Niall Ferguson writes that "nearly every major equity index is down since the beginning of the year, with Italy as the worst performer (-23 percent) and Canada the best (-5 percent). The S&P500 is down 9 percent. With the exceptions of precious metals and safe haven sovereign bonds, it has been a rout."

 

 

February 13, 2016

"Henry Kissinger Provided Strategic Vision in Dangerous Times"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

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

"For Bernie Sanders to call Henry Kissinger 'one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,' is a reminder that, for all his appeal to younger Democrats, Sanders is a throwback to a bygone era."

Niall Ferguson writes that "Sanders’s gratuitous broadside against the 92-year-old statesman was calculated to hurt his rival Hillary Clinton, who has made no secret of her respect for Kissinger (not least in her recent review of his book 'World Order')."

 
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.