Wednesday, May 22, 2024

281 Niall Ferguson
Professor - Harvard University

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School. He is a resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Ferguson is one of the leading analysts of the financial crisis, coming at the issue from a historiographical perspective. In this respect he is one of the few (economic) historians who have successfully applied themselves to the problem, others including Amity Shlaes, who is reinterpreting the story of the 1920s, notably through her appraisal of the presidency of Calvin Coolidge and treasury secretary Thomas Mellon, and their impact on the US economy and financial system in the run up to the Great Crash, the previous great financial and banking crisis.

Ferguson has claimed with some justification a degree of prescience regarding the financial crisis of 2007-2008, and has argued for a revision of historiography for (UK) schools, so that the causes of financial crises, and the like might be better understood. His influence in this respect has been underscored in that the new UK Government has asked him to be involved in a review of the history curriculum in British schools. He has argued, in an article in the Financial Times in 2010, that there is an overdose of Henry VIII and Hitler in the curriculum, and that a narrative along the lines of the rise of civilisation, and Britain's role in it, would provide a better balance.

His best well known recent book is the Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Penguin, 2008). He has just completed a biography of the banker Siegmund Warburg. In it, he tellls the story of Warburg's success as a relationship investment banker, and the principles upon which he based the success of the London investment bank that he founded, a story that may inspire present day bankers wishing to restore London to its former glory as a financial centre.