|Birth Day:||April 18, 1964|
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He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in History from Magdalen College, Oxford, and subsequently began his teaching career at the University of Cambridge.
Ferguson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 18 April 1964 to James Campbell Ferguson, a doctor, and Molly Archibald Hamilton, a physics teacher. He attended The Glasgow Academy. He was brought up as, and remains, an atheist, though he has encouraged his children to study religion and attends church occasionally.
Ferguson received a demyship (highest scholarship) from Magdalen College, Oxford. Whilst a student there, he wrote a 90-minute student film The Labours of Hercules Sprote, played double bass in a jazz band "Night in Tunisia", edited the student magazine Tributary, and befriended Andrew Sullivan, who shared his interest in right-wing politics and punk music. He had become a Thatcherite by 1982. He graduated with a first-class honours degree in history in 1985.
Ferguson studied as a Hanseatic Scholar in Hamburg and Berlin in 1987 and 1988. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Oxford in 1989: his dissertation was titled "Business and Politics in the German Inflation: Hamburg 1914–1924".
In 1989, Ferguson worked as a research fellow at Christ's College, Cambridge. From 1990 to 1992 he was an official fellow and lecturer at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He then became a fellow and tutor in modern history at Jesus College, Oxford, where in 2000 he was named a professor of political and financial history. In 2002 Ferguson became the John Herzog Professor in Financial History at New York University Stern School of Business, and in 2004 he became the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. From 2010 to 2011, Ferguson held the Philippe Roman Chair in history and international affairs at the London School of Economics. In 2016 Ferguson left Harvard to become a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he had been an adjunct fellow since 2005.
In the summer on 1989, while travelling in Berlin, he wrote an article for a British newspaper with the provisional headline "The Berlin Wall is Crumbling", but it was not published.
Ferguson married journalist Sue Douglas in 1994 after meeting in 1987 when she was his editor at The Sunday Times. They have three children: Felix, Freya, and Lachlan.
In 1998, Ferguson published The Pity of War: Explaining World War One, which with the help of research assistants he was able to write in just five months. 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. 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.
In 2000, Ferguson was a founding director of Boxmind, an Oxford-based educational technology company.
In his 2001 book, The Cash Nexus, which he wrote following a year as Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England, 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.
In his 2003 book, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, Ferguson conducts a provocative reinterpretation of the British Empire, casting it as one of the world's great modernising forces. The Empire produced durable changes and globalisation with steampower, telegraphs, and engineers.
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. In 2015, he published the first volume in a two-part biography titled Kissinger: 1923–1968: The Idealist from Penguin Press.
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?', in which he laments the 'de-Christianization of Europe' and the secularism of the continent that leaves it '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 in a 2004 lecture at the American Enterprise Institute entitled 'The End of Europe?',
In his 2005 book, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Ferguson proposes that the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government, but shies away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable, in taking a more active role in resolving conflict arising from the failure of states. The U.S. is an empire in denial, not acknowledging the scale of global responsibilities. The American writer Michael Lind, responding to Ferguson's advocation of an enlarged American military through conscription, accused Ferguson of engaging in apocalyptic alarmism about the possibility of a world without the United States as the dominant power and of a casual disregard for the value of human life.
In 2006, he set up Chimerica Media Ltd., a London based television production company.
In War of the World, published in 2006, Ferguson argued that a combination of economic volatility, decaying empires, psychopathic dictators, racially/ethnically motivated and institutionalised violence resulted in the wars and 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". 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, War of the World was accompanied by a Channel 4 television series presented by Ferguson.
In 2007, Ferguson was appointed as an investment management consultant by GLG Partners, to advise on geopolitical risk as well as current structural issues in economic behaviour relating to investment decisions. GLG is a UK-based hedge fund management firm headed by Noam Gottesman. Ferguson was also an adviser to Morgan Stanley, the investment bank.
In the early 2000s he wrote a weekly column for The Sunday Telegraph and Los Angeles Times, leaving in 2007 to become a contributing editor to the Financial Times. Between 2008 and 2012 he wrote regularly for Newsweek. Since 2015 he has written a weekly column for The Sunday Times and The Boston Globe, which also appears in numerous papers around the world.
Ferguson was an advisor to John McCain's U.S. presidential campaign in 2008, supported Mitt Romney in his 2012 campaign and was a vocal critic of Barack Obama.
Published in 2008, The Ascent of Money examines the history of money, credit, and banking. In it Ferguson predicts a financial crisis as a result of the world economy and in particular the United States using too much credit. He cites the China–United States dynamic which he refers to as Chimerica where an Asian "savings glut" helped create the subprime mortgage crisis with an influx of easy money. While researching this book, in early 2007, Ferguson attended a session at a conference in Las Vegas at which a hedge fund manager stated there would never be another recession. Ferguson challenged this, and later the two agreed on a $14,000, 7 to 1 bet, that there would be a recession within five years. Ferguson collected $98,000.
In May 2009, Ferguson became involved in a high-profile exchange of views with economist Paul Krugman 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.
Ferguson has received honorary degrees from the University of Buckingham, Macquarie University (Australia) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile). In May 2010, Michael Gove, education secretary, asked Ferguson to advise on the development of a new history syllabus, to be entitled "history as a connected narrative", for schools in England and Wales. In June 2011, he joined other academics to set up the New College of the Humanities, a private college in London.
In February 2010, news media reported that Ferguson had separated from Douglas and started dating former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ferguson and Douglas divorced in 2011. Ferguson married Hirsi Ali on 10 September 2011 and Hirsi Ali gave birth to their son Thomas in December 2011. In an interview in April 2011, Ferguson complained about the media coverage of his relationship with Ali, stating: "No, I never read their shitty coverage of people's private lives. I don't care about the sex lives of celebrities, so I was a little unprepared for having my private life all over the country. So yeah, I was naive, yeah. Because you have to stoop to conquer," – but will never write for The Daily Mail again. "That's because I'm a vendetta person. Yes, absolutely. Implacable."
In 2011, he set up Greenmantle LLC, an advisory business specializing in macroeconomics and geopolitics.
Ferguson's television series The Ascent of Money won the 2009 International Emmy award for Best Documentary. 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.
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?"
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. 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."
Historians and commentators have considered his views on this issue and expressed their critical evaluation in various terms, from "audacious" yet "wrong", "informative", "ambitious" and "troubling", to "false and dangerous" apologia.. Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London, has stated that it was correct of Seumas Milne to associate "Ferguson with an attempt to "rehabilitate empire" in the service of contemporary great power interests". In November 2011 Pankaj Mishra reviewed Civilisation: The West and the Rest unfavourably in the London Review of Books. Ferguson demanded an apology and threatened to sue Mishra on charges of libel due to allegations of racism.
In 2011, Ferguson predicted that Grexit (the notion of Greece leaving the Euro currency) was unlikely to happen, but that Britain would leave the European Union in the near future as it would be easier for Britain to leave the EU owing to the fact it was not part of the Eurozone and that returning to a national currency would be harder for countries who had signed up to a single currency. In 2012, he described the Eurozone as a "disaster waiting to happen."
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.
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.
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."
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?" Ferguson denied that he had misrepresented the facts in an online rebuttal. Matthew O'Brien countered that Ferguson was still distorting the meaning of the Congressional Budget Office report being discussed, and that the entire piece could be read as an effort to deceive.
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 dislikes Paul Krugman. The essay title ('Krugtron the Invincible') originally comes from a post by Noah Smith.
Ferguson was an early skeptic of cryptocurrencies, famously dismissing his teenage son's recommendation to buy Bitcoin in 2014. By 2017, he had changed his mind on Bitcoin's utility, saying it had established itself as a form of "digital gold: a store of value for wealthy investors, especially those located in countries with weak rule of law and high political risk." In February 2019, Ferguson became an advisor for digital asset protocol firm Ampleforth Protocol, saying he was attracted by the firm's plan to "reinvent money in a way that protects individual freedom and to create a payments system that treats everyone equally." In March 2019, Ferguson spoke at an Australian Financial Review Business Summit, where he admitted to being "wrong to think there was no … use for a form of currency based on blockchain technology… I don't think this will turn out to be a complete delusion."
Kissinger The Idealist, Volume I, published in September 2015, is the first part of a planned two-part biography of Henry Kissinger based on 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. The book also explores the history of Kissinger joining the Kennedy administration and later becoming critical of its foreign policy, to supporting Nelson 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. The Economist wrote in a review about The Idealist: "Mr Ferguson, a British historian also at Harvard, has in the past sometimes produced work that is rushed and uneven. Not here. Like Mr Kissinger or loathe him, this is a work of engrossing scholarship." In a negative review of The Idealist, the American journalist Michael O'Donnell questioned Ferguson's interpretation of Kissinger's actions leading up to Nixon's election as President. Andrew Roberts praised the book in The New York Times, concluding: "Niall Ferguson already has many important, scholarly and controversial books to his credit. But if the second volume of 'Kissinger' is anywhere near as comprehensive, well written and riveting as the first, this will be his masterpiece."
In 2015, Ferguson deplored the Paris attacks committed by Islamic State terrorists, but stated he was not going to "stand" with the French as he argued that France was a lost cause, a declining state faced with an unstoppable Islamic wave that would sweep away everything that tried to oppose it. Ferguson compared the modern European Union to the Western Roman Empire, describing modern Europe as not that different from the world depicted by Edward Gibbon in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Ferguson wrote that:
During the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, Ferguson was initially critical of the idea of Britain leaving the EU, warning that "the economic consequences will be dire". However, after backing the Remain campaign, Ferguson changed his stance and came out in support of Brexit, stating that while it would still have economic consequences, the EU had been a "disaster" on its monetary, immigration, national security and radical Islam policies. He also added that the "I think one has to recognise that the European elite's performances over the last decade entirely justified the revolt of provincial England."
In 2017, Ferguson opined that the West had insufficiently heeded the rise of militant Islam and its global consequences in the same way it failed to predict that the rise of Lenin would lead to the further spread of communism and conflict around the world:
In an article from November 2016 in The Boston Globe, Ferguson advised that Trump should support the efforts of Prime Minister Theresa May to have Britain leave the European Union as the best way of breaking up the EU, and sign a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom once Brexit is complete. Ferguson advised that Trump should give recognition to Russia as a Great Power, and work with President Vladimir Putin by giving Russia a sphere of influence in Eurasia. In the same column, Ferguson advised Trump not to engage in a trade war with China, and work with President Xi Jinping to create a US-Chinese partnership. Ferguson argued that Trump and Putin should work for the victory of Marine Le Pen (who wants France to leave the EU) and the Front national in the 2017 French elections, arguing that Le Pen was the French politician most congenial to the Trump administration. Ferguson argued that a quintumvirate of Trump, Putin, Xi, May and Le Pen was the world's best hope for peace and prosperity.
In 2018, Ferguson apologized after fellow historians criticized him for only inviting white men as speakers to a Stanford conference on applied history.
Also in 2018, emails documenting Ferguson's attempts to discredit a progressive activist student at Stanford University who had been critical of Ferguson's choices of speakers invited to the Cardinal Conversations free speech initiative were released to the public and University administrators. He teamed with a Republican student group to find information that might discredit the student. Ferguson resigned from leadership of the program once university administrators became aware of his actions. Ferguson responded in his column saying, "Re-reading my emails now, I am struck by their juvenile, jocular tone. “A famous victory,” I wrote the morning after the Murray event. “Now we turn to the more subtle game of grinding them down on the committee. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Then I added: “Some opposition research on Mr O might also be worthwhile”—a reference to the leader of the protests. None of this happened. The meetings of the student committee were repeatedly postponed. No one ever did any digging on “Mr O”. The spring vacation arrived. The only thing that came of the emails was that their circulation led to my stepping down."
During a 2018 debate, Ferguson asserted that he is not anti-immigration or opposed to Muslims, but felt that sections of Europe's political and intellectual classes had failed to predict the cultural and political consequences of large scale migration. He furthermore stated that Islam differs from Judaism and Christianity through being "designed differently" as a political ideology that does not recognize the separation of mosque with the secular and temporal, and that the Muslim world had followed an opposite trend to most of Western society by becoming less secularized and more literal in following holy scripture. He concluded that if Europe kept pursuing large scale migration from pious Muslim countries combined with poor structures of economic and cultural integration, it is "highly likely" that networks of fundamentalist dawah will grow by drawing in culturally and economically unassimilated Muslim migrants.
In 2018, Ferguson became naturalised as a US citizen.
In 2020, Ferguson predicted that the EU is destined to become "moribund" in the near future and that the single currency had only benefited Northern Europe and Germany in particular while causing economic havoc in Southern Europe. However, he also argued the "real disintegration of Europe" will happen over the EU's migration policies that have both exacerbated and failed to provide solutions to illegal immigration to the European continent from North Africa and the Middle East. Ferguson stated that high levels of illegal immigration from majority Muslim nations would in turn further the rise of populist and eurosceptic movements committed to rolling back or leaving the European Union. Ferguson also predicted that in a decade's time, Britain would question why there had been fuss, outcry or debates over the manner of how to leave the EU over Brexit because "we'll have left something that was essentially disintegrating" and that "it would be a little bit like getting a divorce and then your ex drops dead, and you spent all that money on the divorce courts, if only you'd known how sick the ex was. The European Union is sick, and people don't really want to admit that, least of all in Brussels."
Currently, Niall Ferguson is 58 years, 11 months and 3 days old. Niall Ferguson will celebrate 59th birthday on a Tuesday 18th of April 2023.
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