Niall Ferguson – The Great Degeneration

Scottish historian Niall Ferguson has been widely known as the author of numerous, debate-provoking books and gained extreme popularity in the United States as well as in Great-Britain. His scientific recognition is reflected by the fact that he is member of several famous educational institutions: Jesus College, University of Oxford – Senior Research Fellow; Hoover Institution, Stanford University – Senior Fellow; New College of the Humanities – Visiting Professor. In 2004, he was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine for his book Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.


Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson was born in Glasgow, on 18 April 1964. His father was a physician and his mother a physics teacher. He attended The Glasgow Academy and then received a demyship (scholarship) at Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated with a first-class honours degree in history in 1985. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Magdalen College in 1989.


1987–88 Hanseatic Scholar, Hamburg and Berlin

1989–90 Research Fellow, Christ’s College, University of Cambridge

1990–92 Official Fellow és Lecturer, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge

1992–2000 Fellow és Tutor in Modern History, Jesus College, University of Oxford

2000–02 Professor of Political and Financial History, University of Oxford

2002–04 John Herzog Professor in Financial History, Stern School of Business, New York University

2010–11 Philippe Roman Visiting Professor, London School of Economics

From 2004, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School.

Currently, Ferguson is a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College (University of Oxford), and a Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution (Stanford University).  is. Furthermore, he is a Resident Faculty Member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and an Advisory Fellow of the Barsanti Military History Center.


Ferguson’s first book, Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation, 1897–1927 is mostly based on his PhD dissertation and grounded his academic reputation. He was the editor of Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, a best-seller in the United Kingdom, although his hypothetical of approach to history was also criticized by fellow historians. Ferguson champions counterfactual history, also known as “speculative” or “hypothetical” history, in which he likes to imagine alternative outcomes, attaching great significance to individuals and he asks the question ‘what, if’ also in his later books. His book about the 1st World War, The Pity of War generated much controversy. This is an analytic account of what Ferguson considered to be the ten great myths of the Great War. Ferguson suggests that it might have proved more beneficial if Britain had stayed out of the First World War in 1914 and allowed Germany to win, because, consequently, the history of the 20th century would have been far more peaceful. As the result of original archival research, Ferguson published The House of Rothschild, two volumes about the prominent Rothschild family in the USA, which won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History. In his 2001 book, Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700–2000, which he wrote following a year as Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England, Ferguson presented a case for human actions in history motivated by far more than just economic concerns. In Empire? How Britain Made the Modern World he gives a favourable picture of the British Empire, and was also accused of rehabilitating it. It was also the case with Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, in which he explores the United States’ current hegemony. The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred is the chronicle of the bloody history of the 20th century, in which he claims the most important change in the world was the great shift from the West to the East.  The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World basically examines the financial history of the world and predicted the 2012 economic crisis in the USA. High Financier: The Lives and Times of Siegmund Warburg is the biography of a man who was one of the architects of European financial integration and a prominent figure of London’s post-war economy.  Civilization: The West and the Rest examines the factors that made the Western world dominate the East, and Ferguson’s answer includes competition, science, the rule of law, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. His latest published book is The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die analyses the decay of the institutions of our society, which exerts a negative impact on economic growth. Since Henry Kissinger made all his former governmental documents available in 2003, Ferguson has been working on the biography of the former U.S. Secretary of State; the first volume was published in 2015.


Ferguson has never been too far from politics, he was a supporter of Margaret Thatcher as early as in his university years. In 2010, he was asked by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education of the British Conservative Party to advise on the development of a new history syllabus. In the USA, he has been an advisor of the Republican Party and a vocal critic of Barack Obama.

The historian regards the spread of Islam a major threat to Europe, and basically explains the process with the decline of Christianity, which drifted Europe in a post-Christian state.

In 2005, he summarized his ideas on economic policies in The New New Deal, calling for changes to the American government’s fiscal and income security policies. In 2012 Ferguson stated 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.


2014 Nominee of Distinguished Visiting Professor title at Tsinghua University, Beijing

2013 Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism

2012 Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement

2010 Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service

1998-99 Houblon-Norman Fellowship, Bank of England

  • Henry Kissinger: A Life. 2015.
  • The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. Penguin Press, London, 2013.
  • Civilization: The West and the Rest. The Penguin Press, London, 2011.
  • High Financier: The Lives and Times of Siegmund Warburg. Penguin Press, New York 2010.
  • The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Allen Lane, London, 2008.
  • The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred. Allen Lane, London, 2006.
  • 1914. Pocket Penguins 70s S. Penguin Press, London, 2005.
  • Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Penguin Press, London, 2004.
  • Empire? How Britain Made the Modern World. Penguin Press, London, 2003.
  • The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700–2000. Allen Lane, London, 2001.
  • The House of Rothschild: The World’s Banker, 1849–1999. Vol. 2, Viking Press, New York, 1999.
  • The Pity of War. Basic Books, New York, 1998.
  • The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1998.
  • The House of Rothschild. Vol 1. Viking Press, New York, 1998.
  • (ed): Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals. Basic Books, New York,1997.
  • Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation, 1897–1927. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995.
  • Civilizáció. A Nyugat és a többiek (Civilization: The West and the Rest). Scolar, Budapest, 2011.
  • A pénz felemelkedése. A világ pénzügyi történelme (The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World). Scolar, Budapest, 2010.
  • A világ háborúja. A gyűlölet évszázadának története (The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred). Scolar, Budapest, 2008.

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