Colossus by Niall Ferguson
Since decamping from Oxford a few years ago for prestigious posts at NYU and Harvard, the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson has occupied a curious position in the public arena. In the pages of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, he has blithely urged the U.S. to follow in Britain’s imperial footsteps, knowing perfectly well that many of his readers will instinctively recoil at the idea. While not quite endorsing Kipling’s notion of the “white man’s burden,” Ferguson employs the “E” word with gleeful abandon, trying to browbeat Americans into admitting that they, too, sit atop an empire.
Ferguson bills his new book, Colossus, as “primarily a work of history.” But it is also, he adds, a study in “contemporary political economy,” an attempt to predict the future prospects of “America’s empire.” At some points it reads like an economics lecture, at others like an advice book for American policymakers. Ferguson would not be Ferguson, however, without slipping frequently into the tone of cantankerous polemic. His sweeping indictments of America’s “surprisingly inept” foreign policy will offend patriots and America-haters alike. The problem, in his view, is not that the United States behaves too unilaterally but rather that now, as ever, America is simply not imperial enough.
About the Author
Sean McMeekin teaches European history and Russian studies at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey and is the author of The Red Millionaire (Yale).