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About the Author

Niall Ferguson was born April 18, 1964, in Glasgow. He is a Scottish historian. He specializes in financial and economic history as well as the history of empire. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at mostrar mais Harvard Business School. His books include Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927 (1993), Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (1997), The Pity of War: Explaining World War One (1998), The World's Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild (1998), The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 (2001), Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (2003), Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (2004), The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006) and The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2008), Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011) , The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, and The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook. (Bowker Author Biography) mostrar menos
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Obras por Niall Ferguson

Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011) 1,328 exemplares
Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist (2015) 321 exemplares
Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe (2021) 252 exemplares
The House of Rothschild [set] (1998) 163 exemplares
1914 : Why the World Went to War (2005) 88 exemplares
The Shock of the Global: The 1970s in Perspective (2010) — Editor — 38 exemplares
The ascent of money [DVD] (2009) — Narrador — 14 exemplares
The End of the Liberal Order? (2017) 8 exemplares
The Dundee & Arbroath Railway (2023) 2 exemplares

Associated Works

Newsweek | May 23 & 30, 2011 | The Good Wife 2012 (2011) — Contribuidor — 1 exemplar

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A fantastic history of money. Essential to understand the psychological underpinning of value.
 
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yates9 | 66 outras críticas | Feb 28, 2024 |
As you might have heard, Henry Kissinger has died.

Sam Kriss, in his article, "Very Ordinary Men," in "The Point" on Elon Musk notes that good biographies are about dead people. Although Kriss is derisive and dismissive of the biography as a format because of this, I see it as one of their strengths. Someone's life gains significance in its place in history, in its meaning to others.

Now, it should be noted that this biography was indeed published before Kissinger's death. That said, it only covers the first half of his life (Ferguson is supposedly working on the second volume). Additionally, now that Kissinger is dead, the meaning of biographies on the subject already started to evolve, even if their texts stay unchanging.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about Kissinger. Maybe this is partially because he was an old man by the time I was born. Maybe this is also because he is often associated with evil; I don't have an obsession with Hitler, why would I care about Kissinger?

That said, I've been around some conversations recently asking: if Kissinger hadn't perpetrated the evils he had, would worse evils have followed? This seems a question worth exploring, so I've decided to dig a little deeper.

I began by attempting to listen to an eight-hour podcast from "Behind the Bastards," about Kissinger, referred by a friend. I found it entirely unlistenable; it consists of four guys laughing at their own jokes, many of which happen not to be funny. I did get one thing out of the part I listened to though; they extensively cite two book—"Kissinger's Long Shadow," and this book (I'll be moving on to the other title next).

Ferguson's biography is the authorized biography, meaning that it is likely the most laudatory in tone. That said, Kissinger did sign an agreement leaving journalistic voice up to Ferguson, and reserving Ferguson's right to publish critical perspectives.

We might begin with the subtitle. Apparently Kissinger is often thought of as a "realist." Ferguson posits that, at least during the first half of his life, Kissinger was an idealist. I think we can attribute some of this to semantics; there are many possible interpretations to these terms depending on how you believe reality works, and on the ideals you hold. Ultimately, I think it was chosen as a controversial statement to draw in the reader and we shouldn't read too deeply into the assertion.

One of the amazing things about the book is that it covers an incredibly broad swath of history, starting with interwar Germany and concluding with the election of Nixon. A lot happened in Kissinger's life, which means Ferguson has taken the time to educate the reader about some of the context that contributed to his decisions. Even if I wasn't interested in learning more about Kissinger, the book is an excellent way to learn about the foreign policy of the United States in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s.

What is the biggest takeaway from this era? The Cold War was very real, and the United States and the USSR pursued a policy of "little" wars around the war as opposed to embarking on World War III. One thing I hadn't realized was the extent to which the United States went to wage "psychological warfare." This included strategies such as hosting international conferences to establish the Overton Window on a wide range of cultural and scientific issues.

Of course, such a policy has savage, sometimes genocidal, outcomes. You could say that it is an extension of colonialism: "first world countries shouldn't need to bear the burden of war on their own soil, so these wars should be exported to the third world."

At times, Ferguson hits on poignant moments in Kissinger's life. While wrapping up his German military tour, Kissinger's girlfriend bought him a cocker spaniel in Paris whom he named Smoky. He was absolutely in love with this dog, and brought it to Harvard, explicitly against school policy. Tragically, Smoky came to an untimely death as the result of being forgotten in a locked car in New York City on a hot summer day (the book doesn't place attribution for this death, so we are left to assume it is Kissinger's negligence).

Yet on the whole, the book, despite its length, fails to give a thorough account of Kissinger's personal life (this is likely partially due to Kissinger's right to veto aspects of the text that compromised personal relationships). We hear almost nothing about Kissinger's lovers, wives, children, etc. This kind material provides invaluable insights into the nature of someone's character, so it unfortunately left to some future historian to discover.

For all of the facts that the book provides, it is light on narrative. As I mentioned above, I don't find that the "idealist/realist" dichotomy especially holds up. I'm just a short way into Grandin's biography, and already feel as though the author has hit on more of the fundamentals of Kissinger's worldview. On the other hand, this isn't always a bad thing; Ferguson ultimately lets his reader judge Kissinger's fate, as opposed to arguing for his redemption or damnation.

If you have an interest in 20th century history, this book is well worth the read. The Vietnam section drags on (as did the war itself), but otherwise it keeps a good pace. Ferguson manages quite intimate, human portraits of Kissinger's interlocutors such as John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

So have I answered my question about evil? Let me get to the end of this next book first and I'll get back to you on it.
… (mais)
 
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willszal | 5 outras críticas | Feb 19, 2024 |
As I reach the end of reading Niall Ferguson's Kissinger, I wanted to record some impressions of the book before I forget.

As to Kissinger's youth, Ferguson highlights an ironic twist in that while Kissinger did not feel the sting of anti-Semitism until quite late in his youth in Germany -- possibly because he really lived in segmented, or somewhat protected Jewish community -- the anti-Semitism he experienced as a youth on the streets of New York felt an aweful lot like the anti-Semitism he experienced on his way out of Germany.

Of course, the fate that awaited him had his nuclear family stayed there was quite a bit different that the one he ultimately experienced as a professor of Harvard and advisor to Presidents.

But his new life did not come without hiccups.

As an intelligence officer in the invading Allied forces in WWII, Kissinger came perilously close to the experience of freed slaves fighting for the Union in Southern strongholds during the Civil War. Had Kissinger been caught by the Nazis -- and it could have happened during the Battle of the Bulge -- there would have been no pity. No avenue of escape. More of this flirting with danger comes through on Kissinger's visits to Vietnam. They certianly give the story a little more spice.

Kissinger later became the snitches snitch in occupied Germany, an experience that might have primed him for the reconstruction efforts in occupied Iraq. That much of this book took shape while we learned about the abortive efforts to reconstruct Iraq must have influenced Ferguson's focus on the Kissinger archives.

As well Kissinger's experience as a consultant to Ambassador Lodge in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War of the 1960's. Here again Kissinger learned how inept America could be in trying to "pacify" a "local population."

Ferguson goes to great lengths to document Kissinger's introduction to work as advisor to presidents, especially the Democratic flavour, during the 1960's as bootlick to John Kennedy's intimate McGeorge Bundy, and later to Ambassador Lodge as noted above. The pictures Ferguson leaves us with of the womanizing John Kennedy, and the alcoholic Lyndon Johnson, are not the principal ones that immediately strike me from the biographies of Kennedy ("An unfinished life," Robert Dalleck) and Johnson ("The Years of Lyndon Johnson," Robert Caro). Yes those presidents had clay feet. Was Ferguson getting his licks in before those earlier biographies go down in history as some of the best? Biographer's envy, perhaps?

What Kissinger learned from his high-level access to European leaders about the impact of American foreign policy I found very interesting, even though it does not fall too far from the conservative vantage point; that America was far too naive about the aspirations of the European nations in post-War Europe; about the reality of Soviet power and the aspirations of Maoist China; about de Gaulle and the German nationalists. Much of this served him well in later years with Nixon.

To what degree does Ferguson's thesis that Kissinger was an idealist after all in his pre-Nixon years hold up? To the extent that all men who become engrossed in politics, yes Kissinger was idealistic. To the extent that Kissinger was engrossed in ideas as an academic and consultant, yes he was idealistic. To the extent that he came ultimately to the conclusion that Bismarck and Metternich's realpolitik had its dark side, again Kissinger was somewhat idealistic.

How much of Kissinger's career reflects idealism more than the ambition of an immigrant? Here I think the idealism breaks down a little. Kissinger was a Jew in button-up Harvard, and a Jew in Kennedy's white Camelot. He had friends and admirers, including Nelson Rockefeller. But Rockefeller never held the kind of power Kissinger yearned to influence. It took an untouchable like Richard Nixon to bring Kissinger the ultimate kind of respect Kissinger needed.

I sure felt plenty queasy reading about Kissinger's early writings and consulting on the so-called limited use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

I give plenty of credit to Ferguson for keeping up my interest for almost 900 pages reading about a man whose principal actions in his life was to advise others how to act, but doesn’t do much of the acting himself.

Ferguson likens the Vietnam War Paris peace talks to Theatre of the Absurd. Tp me it sounded a little like Kabuki Diplomacy.

The book could have been shorter.

But it’s a good opening bout to the main event in the next volume: Kissinger in Nixonland. And the masterful China opening which put the last spike in the heart of the Soviet Union..
… (mais)
 
Assinalado
MylesKesten | 5 outras críticas | Jan 23, 2024 |

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