Just read, The War of the World, Niall Ferguson

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Major achievement, I’ve finally managed to read all the Niall Ferguson books I had on the shelf – well Colossus and The War of The Worlds, I’d bought them as soon as they came out in paperback, must be 7-8 years ago. I thought The War of The Worlds might come in useful as I’d been studying empires and decolonisation and am currently planning my last essay for the course. While not particularly useful for what I’ve decided to write about (using ‘decided’ in a very loose sense here), I rather enjoyed it and would pause every now and then and think to myself that Ferguson, whatever you think of him and his ideas, does make sense. He really hammers home the genocidal tendencies of the twentieth century, everyone seems to have been involved. Difficult as this may be to comprehend, there is a good quote from Sigmund Freud at the end of the book about man’s destructive tendencies that helps. I guess the reason I’ve enjoyed a number of Ferguson’s books now is that he underpins his arguments with a diverse range of writings – Freud, for example or a number of early twentieth century novelists and their experiences of WWI. I immediately wanted to go and read All Quiet on The Western Front again. Haven’t read it since school. I have a feeling that my grandmother’s copy is still about, that I had enough sense to ask mum to post it to me in the ‘best of childhood/ growing up’ edit box before their move. Might look for it over summer although, being quite old, it would need a good airing prior to reading.

I’d also found Victor Klemperer’s story particularly moving because I’d recently read Slaughterhouse 5, which deals with the bombing of Dresden, the effects and aftershocks felt by the US POWs present. I think this is why Ferguson is such a successful writer, he gives you the hard facts and analysis but he is also very readable, regardless of whether you find his arguments convincing. He includes characters outside the political power plays and this adds not only a level of humanity but also brings closer the events he writes about. This is a good thing for me as my next course (starting in the autumn) is all about the twentieth century. Now I just need to get this last empires essay out of the way and then I can seriously get on with clearing the ‘pile of shame’ of books, which has only grown and grown over the past few months. Current size: utterly ridiculous and totally shameful!

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