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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

AP Photo

September 2016

"Why the President Needs a Council of Historians"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School and Niall Ferguson, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

We urge the next president to establish a White House Council of Historical Advisers. Historians made similar recommendations to Presidents Carter and Reagan during their administrations, but nothing ever came of these proposals. Operationally, the Council of Historical Advisers would mirror the Council of Economic Advisers, established after World War II. A chair and two additional members would be appointed by the president to full-time positions, and respond to assignments from him or her. They would be supported by a small professional staff and would be part of the Executive Office of the President.

 

 

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

July 31, 2016

"As the Fishtown hordes rally to Trump, Hillary’s elite risks coming apart"

Op-Ed, The Sunday Times

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

In his prophetic 2012 book, Coming Apart, my friend Charles Murray identified the stark social division that is defining this year’s presidential election.

 

 

Russell Watkins

July 18, 2016

"From Trollope to Trump"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

To understand what has just happened in Britain, mystified Americans are advised to read the novels of Anthony Trollope. I especially recommend “Framley Parsonage.’’ There is a wonderful parody there of a Victorian change of government, which dashes the political ambitions of the unscrupulous Harold Smith, briefly elevated to the Petty Bag Office.

Harold Smith has been brought into the Cabinet by Lord Brock, the prime minister, but swiftly falls foul of his jealous friend Mr. Supplehouse, who savages him in an article in the “Jupiter.’’ Then, with breathtaking suddenness, the Brock government is overthrown.

 

 

Vaughan Leiberum

June 27, 2016

"The year of living improbably"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

A number of years ago the British apparel chain “French Connection” unveiled a daring and eye-catching new marketing slogan: the initials FCUK. This seems like the mot juste for the British disconnection that happened last week.

Speaking on the BBC, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the Brexit result a victory for “ordinary people, decent people.” This offered a revealing insight into the way Farage regards the 48 percent of people who voted to remain inside the EU. It was certainly a defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, and other members of the government who remained loyal to them. It was also a resounding defeat for bookmakers, political scientists, most media pundits, most pollsters, and the vast majority of investors. Among these were the same experts who failed to foresee that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination.

 

 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

June 13, 2016

"All the way with Clinton?"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

You may find this hard to believe, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was once a conservative. At the age of a sixteen, she campaigned for Barry Goldwater. As an undergraduate at Wellesley she was president of the Young Republicans. In 1968 she even attended the Republican convention.

There is therefore a considerable irony that, as America prepares to re-enact one or other of those elections, Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate.

 

 

(Michael Vadon)

June 6, 2016

"The clash of generations"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

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

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” Marx and Engels famously declared in their Communist Manifesto. A century and a half later, with communism seemingly buried under the rubble of the Soviet Union, Samuel Huntington predicted a clash of civilizations.

But what if the great struggle of our time turns out to be between the generations?

 

 

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 Dept. for Int'l 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.

 
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.