Niall Ferguson has really become even moreso the scholarly historian in the past couple of years, as well as publishing the book, Colossus: Rise and Fall of the American Empire.

Niall Ferguson, British historian and realist, was born on April 18, 1964 in Glasgow, Scotland. He is an award winning historian specializing in financial and economic history, specifically British economics and British Imperialism. He is best known for his views on imperialism and colonialism. Ferguson is the leading academic champion of counterfactual history, where he imagines alternative outcomes as a way of stressing the contingent aspects of history.

In 2004 Time magazine named him as one of the world’s hundred most influential people, and he is possibly the most influential historian alive today.

Ferguson is a professor of History at Harvard University. 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.

In his book, Ferguson makes the case for a liberal empire. All reviews agreed with Ferguson’s assessment that America was an empire. However, Dresner argues that the empire term is either outdated or that Americans are just really bad at imperialism. While Gattis gives a negative review because of Ferguson’s contradicting points. He recognized how futile military operations in Vietnam, yet did not want additional troops or negotiators to go in. Ted Wilmer, from Salon also critiques Ferguson, “Ferguson recommits the essential blunder of the British Empire: He fails to consider whether the world's peoples want to join this new order, even if it is clear to him that they would benefit from it.” (Metacritic)

Ferguson supported the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Ferguson has criticized many of its subsequent implementation and organizational problems. Ferguson is a proponent of the New New Deal, which would changes taxes to a 33% retail tax and Social Security into Personal Security, change Medicare and Medicaid into a voucher system based on need, and cut Federal spending by 20%.

Colossus: Rise and Fall of the American Empire
Chapter overview:

Chap 1, Introduction/overview... I'll spare you.

Chap 2
America wants to be light imperialists.
You can’t just take all the resources from colonies and give nothing back, that’s the criteria for an uprising. After we have a conflict we leave troops behind. What is best for us is to rebuild these countries back up, to become trading partners. However, these countries that we have “conquered” are in actuality apart of the “empire.” The US often takes out smaller country leaders but not staying the course. Ferguson calls them the “little ceasers.”

Chap 3
Nationalization, anti American regimes. Only 2/15 of Middle East countries are considered democracies and friendly to the United States. Osama Bin Laden’s anti US agenda dates back to early cold war, when we were a benign referee. The US has constantly harassed the Arab nations, while supporting pro Israeli agendas. Moved from a hemisphere empire into a world empire because of Israel, Oil, Terrorism.

Chap 4
Bush senior was about multilateralism. Bill Clinton was about staying out of wars to get re-elected. Clinton did however engage in Kosovo and Bosnia, labeling them Humanitarian efforts, ie human rights. Bush 2 wasn’t just about unilateralism, in the beginning. He had 17 UN resolutions against Saddam Hussein, and a majority of the European Union. Ferguson calls Bush’s downfall going to the UN to invade Iraq because Blair asked him to. Nations like Syria were at that third meeting.

Chap 5
Little Caesars are when US intervenes but don’t stay long enough. Soldiers start to die and we pull out. Military dictators are able to charismatically take over a country. Ferguson makes a case for a liberal empire. Cost and benefits on the receiving end, in the colonies. Anti empire feelings are relatively new because imperialism is innate and has been around since the beginning. FDR pushed for decolonization. 192 nations in world now, but only 69 nations less than a hundred years ago. Quality of living in Africa has gone down, governments are more violent and corrupt.

They still need to have right to private property, and government interacting for protection. Trade needs to occur, and it occurs because of personal liberty, rights to private property, and stable governments. This is why Japan, the European Union, and the United States, are the biggest supporters of trade.

The United Kingdom would funnel money into the colonies, and give them cash crops, which would attract foreign investment – guarantee no default on loans. This doesn’t exist nowadays. Less money is as a result invested in third world countries. Imperialism brought more than just capital, it brought rights, that spread from the home country.

Chap 6
Compares Britain imperialism and US imperialism.
Sweeps from south into Baghdad in relatively similar. Easy victory, but hard stability. Britain had the advantage of a declared long term stay and was accepted by League of Nations. 2.6 Million Britain’s left between 1900-1917 for non-military roles. Many of which had university degrees. The US is an importer not an exporter of people. Most people stay in developed countries if they do leave. To overcome US Anti Imperialism, it’s about timing, troops, short term stays are disastrous!

  • Have a good plan and stick to it
  • Establish rule of law
  • Establish credibility
  • Start as quickly as possible on structural reforms
  • International community needs to support
  • Close relationships between military and citizen
  • Give peace a political destination

Chap 7
The European Union can become the next empire. Two poles would be created, US dominated and Euro dominated. 450 million people in EU, 350 million in US. EU productivity has gone up. 10.4 trillion GDP of US is being gained upon by EU’s 8 trillion. Up from post WWII levels where the EU was half productivity. Noung also points out that this is a straw man argument for the most part, as Ferguson concludes: "Talk of a federal Europe's emerging as a counterweight to the United States is based on a complete misreading of developments."

Professor Nancy Hannstad of Weber State University