Author: Niall Ferguson
Rating: 3 Stars
Review By: Shana
Ferguson, well-known historian, takes a look at the last 500 years as he examines Western prevalence in world affairs. I must admit that I struggled mightily in deciding whether this is three or four stars. The book is eminently readable, and Ferguson is passionate, humorous, and fast-paced in his writing. He also offers some very interesting ideas (not all of which are novel, but are nonetheless packaged well and deployed with verve) to frame the last 500 years of Western dominance in the world.
While parts of his arguments are convincing, it is his very framing that left me with mixed feelings on the book. He appears to have entered into the writing of this history with an agenda and a thesis/conclusion already in mind. This is not always problematic where the author scrupulously lays out why he or she touts the thesis and carefully builds their case (examining and explaining evidence for and against their conclusions). Ferguson, however, pays short shrift to counterexamples and interpretations that do not match his end goal.
Most disturbing are a number of rather tone deaf and short-sighted statements suggesting that Western imperialism was a net positive for much of Africa, all this while hardly acknowledging the brutality and damage (not to mention long-term negative effects) that imperialism in general and slavery in particular caused. Moreover, Ferguson is also dismissive of the contributions of the East and the East's longstanding power that pre-dated Western dominance (when he bothers to mention it at all).
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...