On the Spot: Niall Ferguson

‘What will future generations judge us most harshly for? Losing the Second Cold War to China.’

Niall Ferguson.

Why are you an economic and political historian?
I also try to be a social and cultural historian. The idea of dividing history into specialisms strikes me as mistaken. The key is to be able to relate, for example, shifts in financial institutions and markets to political events. This has been a recurring leitmotif of my work.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That most decision-makers operate with skewed theories about history. A review of Philip Zelikow’s book on Suez is on the money: ‘It is a rare quality in world leaders to be able to make historical analogies without fully embracing them, thereby becoming trapped.’ Most get trapped.

Which book has had the greatest influence on you?
Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

What book in your field should everyone read?
Collingwood’s Autobiography.

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