Author(s): Niall Ferguson
If in the year 1411 you had been able to circumnavigate the globe, you would have been most impressed by the dazzling civilizations of the Orient. The Forbidden City was under construction in Ming Beijing; in the Near East, the Ottomans were closing in on Constantinople. By contrast, England would have struck you as a miserable backwater ravaged by plague, bad sanitation and incessant war. The other quarrelsome kingdoms of Western Europe - Aragon, Castile, France, Portugal and Scotland - would have seemed little better. As for fifteenth-century North America, it was an anarchic wilderness compared with the realms of the Aztecs and Incas. The idea that the West would come to dominate the Rest for most of the next half millennium would have struck you as wildly fanciful. And yet it happened. What was it about the civilization of Western Europe that allowed it to trump the outwardly superior empires of the Orient? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues, was that the West developed six 'killer applications' that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If so, Ferguson warns, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy. Civilization takes readers on their own extraordinary journey around the world - from the Grand Canal at Nanjing to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; from Machu Picchu in the Andes to Shark Island, Namibia; from the proud towers of Prague to the secret churches of Wenzhou. It is the story of sailboats, missiles, land deeds, vaccines, blue jeans and Chinese Bibles. It is the defining narrative of modern world history.
Ferguson is the most brilliant British historian of his generation ... he writes with splendid panache The Times One of the world's leading historians -- Hamish McRae Independent [Praise for The Ascent of Money] Beautifully written... Breathtakingly clever -- Martin Van Weyer Sunday Telegraph [Praise for The Ascent of Money] The tales he tells of boom and bust, of triumph and disaster, of bubbles that inflate... are the very essence of financial history -- Bill Emmott Financial Times [Praise for The Ascent of Money] An often enlightening and enjoyable tour through the underside of great events, a lesson in how the most successful great powers have always been underpinned by smart money -- Robert Skidelsky New York Review of Books
Niall Ferguson is one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World and The Ascent of Money. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. He has written and presented five highly successful television document series for Channel Four: Empire, American Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money and, most recently, Civilization.