Evening talk

Wednesday 4 October 2017

19:00

Niall Ferguson

On history's hidden networks

In conjunction with Intelligence Squared we present Niall Ferguson, preeminent historian of the ideas that define our time. He has challenged how we think about money, power, civilisation and empires. In his new book, The Square and The Tower, he wants to reimagine history itself.

Historians have always focused on hierarchies, he argues – on the elites that wield power. Economists have concentrated on the marketplace – on the economic forces that shape change. These twin structures are symbolised for Ferguson by Siena’s market square, and its civic tower looming above. But beneath both square and tower run something more deeply significant: the hidden networks of relationships, ideas and influence.

Networks are the key to history. The greatest innovators have been ‘superhubs’ of connections. The most powerful states, empires and companies have been those with the most densely networked structures. And the most transformative ideas – from the printing presses that launched the Reformation to the Freemasonry that inspired the American Revolution – have gone viral precisely because of the networks within which they spread.

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

He is the author of fourteen books. His many 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).

‘When we understand these core insights of network science, the entire history of mankind looks quite different.’

Niall Ferguson