December 11, 2010
Controversial historian Professor Niall Ferguson argues that in the last
century there were not in fact two World Wars and a Cold War, but a single
Hundred Years’ War.
It was not nationalism that powered the conflicts of the century, but
empires. It was not ideologies of class or the advent of socialism driving
the century, but race.
Ultimately, ethnic conflict underpinned 20th-century violence.
was not the west that triumphed as the century progressed - in fact, power
slowly and steadily migrated towards the new empires of the East.
The Clash of Empires
An alternative perspective to the events
of the 20th century, offering different explanations for the two
world wars and the shifting balance of power as the 1900s
He begins by studying the origins of World War One,
arguing that the conflict sparked racial hatred which was exploited
by nation states for their own ends.
A Tainted Triumph
The last years of World War Two,
considering the terrible ethical compromises the Allied nations were
forced to make to defeat their German and Japanese enemies, and the
long-term consequences for the victors.
How during the Cold War, World War Three
actually took place.
With the US and the Soviet Union unable to
engage in battle with each other directly for fear of the nuclear
consequences, Third World nations ended up serving as proxies for
the superpowers, causing carnage to rival World War One.
How the US became the envy of the world
in the aftermath of World War One, a state of affairs that was
shattered by the Wall Street crash.
He also considers the effect of
the Great Depression on people’s attitudes to capitalism and
democracy, and how it led to the rise of totalitarian states.
How the rise of the Axis powers led to a
fundamental redrawing of the world map.
He pinpoints 1942 as a
pivotal year, and considers how the 20th century might have unfolded
had World War Two ended differently, with totalitarian regimes
dividing the globe between them
The Descent of the West
Controversial historian Professor Niall
Ferguson concludes the series by challenging the received wisdom
that the fall of the Berlin Wall represented ultimate triumph for
Western values, pointing to racial conflict in the last decades of
the 20th century.
He also considers the possibility of a further
global war in the future.