#634: Niall Ferguson, Historian — The Coming Cold War II, Visible and Invisible Geopolitics, Why Even Atheists Should Study Religion, Masters of Paradox, Fatherhood, Fear, and More
Niall Ferguson (@nfergus), MA, DPhil, FRSE, is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of 16 books, including The Pity of War, The House of Rothschild, Empire, Civilization, and Kissinger, 1923–1968: The Idealist, which won the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Prize.
He is an award-winning filmmaker, too, having won an International Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money. His 2018 book, The Square and the Tower, was a New York Times bestseller and also adapted for television by PBS as Niall Ferguson’s Networld. In 2020 he joined Bloomberg Opinion as a columnist.
In addition, he is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, a New York-based advisory firm; a co-founder of Ualá, a Latin American financial technology company; and a trustee of the New York Historical Society, the London-based Centre for Policy Studies, and the newly founded University of Austin.
His latest book, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, was published last year by Penguin and was shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize.
This episode is brought to you by Wealthfront! Wealthfront is an app that helps you save and invest your money. Right now, you can earn 3.3% APY—that’s the Annual Percentage Yield—with the Wealthfront Cash Account. That’s more than fifteen times more interest than if you left your money in a savings account at the average bank, according to FDIC.gov. And when you open an account today, you’ll get an extra fifty dollar bonus with a deposit of five hundred dollars or more. Visit Wealthfront.com/Tim to get started.
This episode is also brought to you by ShipStation. Do you sell stuff online? Then you know what a pain the shipping process is. ShipStation was created to make your life easier. Whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon, Shopify, or over 100 other popular selling channels, ShipStation lets you access all of your orders from one simple dashboard, and it works with all of the major shipping carriers, locally and globally, including FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
Tim Ferriss Show listeners get to try ShipStation free for 60 days by using promo code TIM. There’s no risk, and you can start your free trial without even entering your credit card info. Just visit ShipStation.com, click on the microphone at the TOP of the homepage, and type in “TIM”!
This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system.
Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.
[05:45 ] How Niall's multi-faceted career has gone according to plan.
[08:00 ] The license to be outrageous in academia ain't what it used to be.
[14:53 ] High table, dregs of Château Lafite, and hyperbolic references.
[20:26 ] A.J.P. Taylor and the philosophy of history.
[25:00 ] How does a historian find an "ear" for historical resonance?
[29:48 ] What Niall would ask A.J.P. if they were Château Lafite drinking buddies.
[34:30 ] An appetite for tweed.
[36:40 ] Historical contingency.
[43:40 ] A.J.P. Taylor reading for beginners and counterfactual history.
[46:41 ] Dan Carlin, Elon Musk, and Gavrilo Princip.
[48:39 ] What Niall gets out of digging deep into historical correspondence.
[54:04 ] Cold War II — what can we do?
[1:10:44 ] Keeping Cold War II from heating up into World War III.
[1:16:37 ] Economic interdependence does not preclude conflict.
[1:20:02 ] Ways Niall is using his grasp of history to change the world for the better.
[1:26:11 ] How Niall's toolkit for enacting change has evolved over the years.
[1:28:55 ] Thoughts on fatherhood.
[1:36:15 ] Why someone raised as an atheist takes his kids to church.
[1:42:42 ] Has marriage to ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali changed Niall's view of Western philosophy?
[1:46:22 ] Life under fatwa.
[1:51:00 ] Parting thoughts.
Sign up for Tim’s email newsletter (5-Bullet Friday) at tim.blog/friday.
For transcripts of episodes, go to tim.blog/transcripts.
Discover Tim’s books: <a href="http://