THE WAR OF THE WORLD (Tonight 20.00 channel 4)

#1
"THE ICEBOX" Historian Prof Niall Ferguson explains his theory on how, during the "Cold War", WW3 actually took place!
Might be food for thought for the BAOR medal thread that was/is running!
 
#2
Counting down the minutes, I quite like his documentaries.

Quite right about WW3, just look at the conflicts throughout Africa
and the middle east.
 
#7
Ferguson is always worth watching and reading. The book/TV series on the British Empire is worth a go.

He made some interesting points tonight, especially about Castro being the real winner of the Cuban missile crisis. After all he's outlasted the Soviet Union and every single US attempt to 'remove' him.

Give it a few more years and he'll probably be able to write a sequel about China.
 
#8
Aside from the book, is there any chance this series will come out on DVD?
 
#9
Feckin missed it, got carried away with mastermind....

Don't suppose it repeats?
 
#10
One thing i did not like about that documentry, it jumped back and forward in time, in no chronological order to it at all, now true its analysis not a descriptive story, but it was leaping from one occasion, fowards, backwards, start again..... odd!
 

Mr Happy

LE
Moderator
#11
gearupflapup said:
One thing i did not like about that documentry, it jumped back and forward in time, in no chronological order to it at all, now true its analysis not a descriptive story, but it was leaping from one occasion, fowards, backwards, start again..... odd!
I noticed that, I wonder if this allowed for covering up holes in his arguments.... Good show though, might be downloadable.

G
 
#12
gallowglass said:
Aside from the book, is there any chance this series will come out on DVD?
I wouldn't bother. so far the book is a more coherent argument than the tv series has been, naturally enough I suppose. However, this programme does seem to be cherry picking points to prove an argument he came up with in the pub one night, rather than an argument formed by a dispssionate look at evidence.
 
#13
Update:

Having reached the outbreak of Blitzkrieg, Fergusson has so far produced a thorough, but pretty much workmanlike history of 1900-39. Although he gace some interesting insights to the Turks and Armenians, he isn't building a case to back up his posturing on TV. 400 pages, and he hasn't said anything new yet.

Further update:

Interesting fact came up, boy scouts were killed in Poland as they were a potential source of leadership for opposition. However, unforgiveably he misquotes and maligns George MacDonald Fraser.

'When Indian soldiers serving with the British in Burma killed a group of wounded Japanese prisoners, George MacDonald Fraser, then an officer in the 14th Army, turned a blind eye'.

1) GMF was a Lance Corporal in Burma.

2) How GMF related this in QSOH, (there is no reference to GMF in Fergusson's 80 page bibliography)

'One morning, after an Indian unit had been on guard, there were no Japanese to be seen in the buildings, and the central trench was full of rocks. The Japanese were found underneath them, dead. They had been thrown into the trench in the night, and the rocks hurled down on the.
I heard this from one of the section, in the presence of my comrades. We didn't go to the building, so I had only that man's word for it, but from what I heard later from other sources, there was no doubt his report was accurate. I know it happened, although I never saw the evidence.
What had happened was a "war crime", no question. So, what could I have done? Investigated, like a good n.c.o.? Informed my superior - and gone higherif necessary? Written to my MP?
It did not cross my ming to do any of these things. I probably grimaced, remarked "Hard buggers, those jawans", shrugged and forgot about it.If I had made an issue of it with higher authority, I'd have been regarded as eccentric. I'd have regarded myself as eccentric. By the standards I have applied recently to those who turned a blind eye to similar incidents, and by all canons of popular moralists in 1991, I should have made a stir, demanded an enquiry, and not rested until the defenders were brought to book. I didn't, not because of any conscious decision on the point, or weighing of pro's and con's, but simply because it didn't matter to me. It had happened, beyond repair, and I feel no dereliction of duty, military or moral, in ignoring it. I still don't.
That is not to say that I condone major war crimes, or would take any but a short way with those who commit them. I know that the killing 9or murder, which is what it was) of those Japanese was well beyond the civilised borderline. But being of my generation, in the year 1945, towards the end of a war of a peculiarly vicious, close-quarter kind, against an enemy who wouldn't have known the Geneva Convention if it fell on him, I never gave it a secong thought. And if I had, the notion of crying for redress against the perpetrators (my own comrades-in-arms, Indian soldiers who had gone the mile for us, and we for them), on behalf of a pack of Japs, would have been obnoxious, dishonourable even'.
 
#16
barbarasson said:
Update:

Having reached the outbreak of Blitzkrieg, Fergusson has so far produced a thorough, but pretty much workmanlike history of 1900-39. Although he gace some interesting insights to the Turks and Armenians, he isn't building a case to back up his posturing on TV. 400 pages, and he hasn't said anything new yet.

Further update:

Interesting fact came up, boy scouts were killed in Poland as they were a potential source of leadership for opposition. However, unforgiveably he misquotes and maligns George MacDonald Fraser.

'When Indian soldiers serving with the British in Burma killed a group of wounded Japanese prisoners, George MacDonald Fraser, then an officer in the 14th Army, turned a blind eye'.

1) GMF was a Lance Corporal in Burma.

2) How GMF related this in QSOH, (there is no reference to GMF in Fergusson's 80 page bibliography)

'One morning, after an Indian unit had been on guard, there were no Japanese to be seen in the buildings, and the central trench was full of rocks. The Japanese were found underneath them, dead. They had been thrown into the trench in the night, and the rocks hurled down on the.
I heard this from one of the section, in the presence of my comrades. We didn't go to the building, so I had only that man's word for it, but from what I heard later from other sources, there was no doubt his report was accurate. I know it happened, although I never saw the evidence.
What had happened was a "war crime", no question. So, what could I have done? Investigated, like a good n.c.o.? Informed my superior - and gone higherif necessary? Written to my MP?
It did not cross my ming to do any of these things. I probably grimaced, remarked "Hard buggers, those jawans", shrugged and forgot about it.If I had made an issue of it with higher authority, I'd have been regarded as eccentric. I'd have regarded myself as eccentric. By the standards I have applied recently to those who turned a blind eye to similar incidents, and by all canons of popular moralists in 1991, I should have made a stir, demanded an enquiry, and not rested until the defenders were brought to book. I didn't, not because of any conscious decision on the point, or weighing of pro's and con's, but simply because it didn't matter to me. It had happened, beyond repair, and I feel no dereliction of duty, military or moral, in ignoring it. I still don't.
That is not to say that I condone major war crimes, or would take any but a short way with those who commit them. I know that the killing 9or murder, which is what it was) of those Japanese was well beyond the civilised borderline. But being of my generation, in the year 1945, towards the end of a war of a peculiarly vicious, close-quarter kind, against an enemy who wouldn't have known the Geneva Convention if it fell on him, I never gave it a secong thought. And if I had, the notion of crying for redress against the perpetrators (my own comrades-in-arms, Indian soldiers who had gone the mile for us, and we for them), on behalf of a pack of Japs, would have been obnoxious, dishonourable even'.
Many thanks for highlighting this barbarasson. Mis-quoting GMF in this manner is nothing short of academic sloppiness of the worst order. Ironically, despite my wondering if this series will emerge in DVD format, I only watched the first episode, primarily because I wasn't all that impressed. Put simply, I do not see that Prof. Fergusson's central contention - interesting though it certainly is - actually holds water when measureed against the conflicts of the 20th century, and there does seem to be a degree of bashing a square peg into a round hole on Fergusson's part. I would contend that the very ethnic differences that Fergusson feels formed the basis of and fuelled the conflicts of the 20th century are largely a creation of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, primarily by ethnologists, anthropologists, and historicans looking for a new angle; a recent example of this was the tendency amongst the cappucino-classes in Europe to breezily dismiss the Balkans as just another ethnic conflict, the subtext being that über-sophisticates such as they need not concern themselves with such grubby goings-on; the same attitude holds sway regarding the Middle East.
 
#17
Sorry chaps, I have to disagree with you all. Niall Ferguson really is pop history of the worst kind - his arguements are long, rambling and indistinct. Put him put against Fred Halliday at the LSE or Eric Hobsbawm and he's pants.

Re: BBC Radio 4 - Start the Week

Want the definitive book on this subject ? Pick up The Shield of Achilles by Philip Bobbitt.
 
#18
Are you disagreeing? My question to you is, what do you feel his subject is? Always interested to read something new, so what is the topic of The Shield of Achilles? Is it 20th century violence, 20th century ethno-violence, or the rise of the east? On the rise of the east this is something, though presaged heavily in Fergusson's TV intro, still hasn't been covered much in the book (have a feeling it is done in th epilogue - I will confirm after bathtime reading tonight).

Despite genuine anger at his abuse (in the sense of misuse) of GMF, my main contention with the book is still that it lacks a purpose, and that Fergusson is merely trying to seem all new and contentious, but really is going over old ground. [I admit to having a tiny anti-Fergusson bias due to an incident on my post-grad course. Brian Bond (a genuinely superb military historian) castigated a lad who had been an undergraduate under Fergusson for spouting his chippy views. This has stuck with me because Bond, while being a but miserable, was essentially a very fair guy.]

If Fergusson were simply trying to make the point that a lot of 20th century conflicts were often made infinitely worse because they allowed medieval racial feuds to be fought out with modern weapons he would have a very fair point. However, it is his attempt to make massively general conclusions that causes the trouble. As he himself points out, the British and Germans were essentially ethnically the same, and yet they fought eachother twice. Moreover the British did this with the voluntary support of virtually every race in the world through its empire forces, the Indian Army being the largest volunteer army ever. As I mentioned before, the individual chapters are informative, though the GMF business undermines him for me, and in a way the collection of them is so far much greater than the whole he tries to produce. If the book were picked up by something who knows nothing of the subject they would gain a lot from it, however this is surely not Fergusson's market?
 
#19
In fairness to Ferguson, he isn't claiming to present a definitive history of anything; simply trying to bring a slightly different perspective to bear on events that have been discussed/ analysed endlessly from, on the whole, fairly predictable angles. He's no slouch, and he has produced substantial, groundbreaking/ highly original, and widely acclaimed, work on the economics/ financing of war,"virtual history", plus - of course - more recently, the British Empire ("Empire", 2003, ISBN 0-141-00754-0) and the USA in the modern world ("Colossus", 2004, ISBN 0-141-01700-7). He is Tischler Professor of International History at Harvard Univ; Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Govt at Stanford Univ, and Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford Univ. By any standards, that's a more than slightly impressive CV, esp for someone so young, and suggests that many of his academic peers have high regard for his ideas/ work.

I think his contention that race/ ethnicity have been more significant causes of conflict (as distinct from aspects of conflicts) in the "short C20th" than many historians have hitherto been prepared to acknowledge is worthy of more consideration, and much of this series (and presumably the book) is aimed at inviting/ stimulating others (lay or academic) to debate & research this further. TV is the obvious medium for initiating popular debate in our society, and he is continuing a tradition started by AJP Taylor back in the early 1960s when, to the horror of fellow Oxford academics, he used "vulgar & populist" means to advance the controversial (but stimulating!) "War by accident" thesis re the origins of WW2.

My 6th formers love Ferguson's programmes, and they're a great starting point for debates on tricky historiographical questions. I'll also add that Ferguson has interviewed a number of my pupils applying to Oxford, and in one case Harvard, and he is reckoned by them to be the fairest and most courteous of interviewers; in total contrast to some "dons" who could be mentioned! He invariably provides schools with extremely thorough feedback on all candidates, successful as well as those rejected, and always replies personally to all requests, queries etc in full. In short, I can't speak highly enough of him - wish all academics were like this; we need more of his ilk.
 
#20
Wish he fired up my 6th formers, wish anything would.......

I am not questioning his CV, or his professionalism etc (well, I'm still smarting over his implication about GMF). Well actually in a small way I am, Wessex_man points out the quality of his research, but then can't get a very basic fact right. Then again at Fergusson's level much of the original research is carried out by himself as it is. This is not a criticism, as obviously he could not produce his volume of published work if he had to do it all himself.

My main problem is that War of the World, is that I do not feel it hung together well. He creates a model of the (very) short 20th Century 1905-53, in itself a strange construct, and then seeks to explain everything within his paradigm. I agree that he builds up a strong case for race being the cause of the brutality of war in that period (though less so the cause of the wars themselves), but I do not believe that this is as new a theory as he makes out. Like a bad essay, Fergusson is stating everything he knows about a subject in the main body, then adding a conclusion that does not necessarily flow from the text. The fundamental points he made, both in the book and on TV, felt tagged on. An instance of this was the 1979 point. The fall of the Shah was clearly a crucial event that year. However, he implied that Reagan would have not been Reagan without Thatcher, and what justification was offered for 1979 being the year where a key demographic shift took place. It is all a little too tricksy.

Fergusson is clearly an immense historian, both in terms of the scope of his work, his popular impact (I had bought the book well before it cam eout on TV, though I didn't get the chance to read it until last week), and his ability to cause debate (clearly). However, even Simon Schama had the good grace to call his book and series 'A History of Britain' and not 'The History of Britain'. I feel I would have been better disposed towards Fergusson if he had seemed more like he was posing important questions, rather than giving definitive answers.
 

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