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Why Niall Ferguson Sucks

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  • View Poll Results: Niall Ferguson Sucks?
    Yes he has a biased view.
    22
    39.29%
    No he is the best historian in history - ever.
    23
    41.07%
    Yes, his courses would be useless to getting any real job.
    6
    10.71%
    No, his courses would be useful in me becoming a janitor.
    5
    8.93%

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    Niall Ferguson Sucks.

    At least that's what my professor said some years ago.

    Discuss.
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    Erm. Why? I mean he has a specific view on historical events and he tends to be apologetic towards Empire but I don't think he sucks as a historian. He did loads of research on the topic of Empire and he makes a coherent argument, a quality which lots of historians doesn't have in equal measure.

    P.S. And his 'The war of the world' is pretty good book. I liked his argument about declining empires and economic volatility as main reasons for the bloodiest conflicts of the 21st century.
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    I have seen 2 of his TV series - Civilization and Empire - both of which I thought were excellent. I largely agree with his views on Imperialism.

    The only one of his books I have read however, The Pity of War, was not very impressive in my opinion. He makes some pretty BS arguments in it, like "Germany was the least militaristic country in Europe in 1914", and his 'proof' for this statement is that anti-militaristic Socialist parties (represented in Germany by the SPD) got a larger % of votes than in any other country. That doesn't really mean anything! Power and influence in the Second Reich was firmly in the hands of the Kaiser and his generals, not the Reichstag! Is he seriously telling me that in 1914, Denmark was more militaristic than Imperial Germany?
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    Hes an arrogant ****, but in terms of scholarship, he is incredible. Not only does he research very well, but he makes history accessible, which is good because much of the time History is seen as a very elitist, exclusive subject. What has happened, unfortunately, is that fame has got to his head- and in Britain it is sadly the case that fame brings a certain sense of arrogance to public intellectuals.
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    None of the poll results fit with my opinion. I think he's alright, and anyone who says "look, that historian is biased!!!" clearly doesn't understand what it means to be a historian. Historians have opinions, they debates big questions. It doesn't make them "biased" in the same sinister way as journalists and so on. They're just having an academic debate on stuff in the past, be it the Empire or whatever. He's entitled to his opinion.
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    I started watching his programme on channel 4 recently. He made bold claims like, the west were more scientifically advanced and that helped them dominate over the last couple of hundred years. It was eye opening stuff, and I look forward to his next groundbreaking documentary about the earths orbiting the sun.
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    (Original post by Phantom_X)
    Hes an arrogant ****, but in terms of scholarship, he is incredible. Not only does he research very well, but he makes history accessible, which is good because much of the time History is seen as a very elitist, exclusive subject. What has happened, unfortunately, is that fame has got to his head- and in Britain it is sadly the case that fame brings a certain sense of arrogance to public intellectuals.
    Don't tar Brian Cox with that filthy brush
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    (Original post by Ory)
    Niall Ferguson Sucks.

    At least that's what my professor said some years ago.

    Discuss.
    Your professor sounds like an idiot. I've never heard any serious academic refer to another academic in those terms.
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    Well, I doubt he was an idiot. His graduates actually learn measurable skills get decent jobs from the actual subject matter they study, unlike those who take only Niall's classes. Most of my peers would regard studying history, or even lecturing in it as something of a hobby that anyone with a year 10 education could do. What exactly does completing a subject in history tell any employer these days, except of course an employer such as a history faculty at a university?
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    (Original post by Ory)
    Well, I doubt he was an idiot. His graduates actually learn measurable skills get decent jobs from the actual subject matter they study, unlike those who take only Niall's classes. Most of my peers would regard studying history, or even lecturing in it as something of a hobby that anyone with a year 10 education could do. What exactly does completing a subject in history tell any employer these days, except of course an employer such as a history faculty at a university?
    possibly the dumbest thing I have read here for a while.

    what can a history grad learn ?

    - How to avoid particular problems, ie. financial problems, which for some reason our super intelligent banker friends with useful economics degrees failed to see, unlike Niall who predicted it during the egalitarian boom.

    -Conceptions of the future, as it is only through analysis of the past, that we actually learn what can be done to improve society, and more importantly, the means and processes to actually do so in terms of institutions and innovative ideas.

    - How the nature of humans actually manifests--> ie. not in the rational, logical, linear methods that polluted the conceptions of the 90's and 2000's within the Clinton and Bush whitehouse, the RAND corporation, the IMF etc, which seem to still beleive society can be operated on calculated economic models, most of which are wrong.

    - As a side note, do you know the rising economies actually like Historians ? See they have a background gift of hindsight, which China is finding much more valuable than economic models that have basically eroded the western world.

    i could go on but i have to go in a few minutes, so i will summarise. Firstly, History is a long academic process that isnt a matter of recalling facts or coming up with poxy analysis that is so characteristic of GCSES and A levels, and it also teaches invaluable skills; articulation, the process of delivering an argument, thinking on your feet, and critical analysis, all of which i argue are very valuable to employers- except maybe those hiring workers to stack shelves or something.
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    (Original post by neiljeff123)
    Don't tar Brian Cox with that filthy brush
    pfft, Brian Cox is a n00b. Its all about Roger Penrose.
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    Niall Ferguson is a reasonably good historian who has made a massive success of himself by going into 'popular' history.

    A lot of history professors disagree with the concept, especially with issues as emotive as imperialism, and believe that only by keeping to the strict historical circles a historian is truly accomplished in his or her field.

    Personally, i think Niall Ferguson simplifies his arguments too much, and fails to correct the inane biases in his readership, which in my view prevents him from being a great historian. But he's not as bad as the likes of Hobsbawm and others who let their biases determine how they analyse the world against historical truth
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    (Original post by Ory)
    Well, I doubt he was an idiot. His graduates actually learn measurable skills get decent jobs from the actual subject matter they study, unlike those who take only Niall's classes. Most of my peers would regard studying history, or even lecturing in it as something of a hobby that anyone with a year 10 education could do. What exactly does completing a subject in history tell any employer these days, except of course an employer such as a history faculty at a university?
    You don't need to use the knowledge from a history for it to be useful. By the same reasoning, English, philosophy, art and many other subjects are useless. Indeed many people who take economics or science or something like that won't work in those fields after they graduate - wasting their time too? You don't seem to realise that studying anything at a high level, be it abstract philosophy or a more practical degree, makes you clever and "gives you skills", showing employers that you have a brain.
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    (Original post by Phantom_X)
    possibly the dumbest thing I have read here for a while.

    what can a history grad learn ?

    - How to avoid particular problems, ie. financial problems, which for some reason our super intelligent banker friends with useful economics degrees failed to see, unlike Niall who predicted it during the egalitarian boom.

    -Conceptions of the future, as it is only through analysis of the past, that we actually learn what can be done to improve society, and more importantly, the means and processes to actually do so in terms of institutions and innovative ideas.

    - How the nature of humans actually manifests--> ie. not in the rational, logical, linear methods that polluted the conceptions of the 90's and 2000's within the Clinton and Bush whitehouse, the RAND corporation, the IMF etc, which seem to still beleive society can be operated on calculated economic models, most of which are wrong.

    - As a side note, do you know the rising economies actually like Historians ? See they have a background gift of hindsight, which China is finding much more valuable than economic models that have basically eroded the western world.

    i could go on but i have to go in a few minutes, so i will summarise. Firstly, History is a long academic process that isnt a matter of recalling facts or coming up with poxy analysis that is so characteristic of GCSES and A levels, and it also teaches invaluable skills; articulation, the process of delivering an argument, thinking on your feet, and critical analysis, all of which i argue are very valuable to employers- except maybe those hiring workers to stack shelves or something.
    Wonderful. So something that most of us have with a year 10 education. That's why so many history grads end up working at McDonalds unless they luck out and become professors. The fact is that anyone with a year 10 education and a Kindle can do what Ferguson does. If you couldn't read between the lines with your history degree skills, the question posed was "What is the point of studying it at university and paying all that money to get a degree that will allow you to do something you could do while at the beach or on your tern schooner in the antipodes?". BTW, there's no need to answer that question, the answer is obvious.

    Delivering an argument? You mean like this? Ferguson can't even win a conversation with Borat, and that should remind you of something -the thread is about Niall - not about whether you should spend 3 years or your life spending money learning something that anyone could do at home - carry on.
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    I agree that anyone could do what Ferguson does on TV, because TV history programmes are by their nature extremely dumbed down. But not everyone could write the books he writes, which contain thousands more words then he says in a TV series. Just because someone makes sweeping generalised statements on TV (this applies to scientists as much as to historians), doesn't mean that they aren't very clever and intellectually active and able to produce research of the highest quality.
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    (Original post by Clumsy_Chemist)
    I agree that anyone could do what Ferguson does on TV, because TV history programmes are by their nature extremely dumbed down. But not everyone could write the books he writes, which contain thousands more words then he says in a TV series. Just because someone makes sweeping generalised statements on TV (this applies to scientists as much as to historians), doesn't mean that they aren't very clever and intellectually active and able to produce research of the highest quality.
    Absolutely agree with you. Actually it is quite hard to make a good TV series about history because lots of prominent historians are very good academics and extremely bad communicators. Besides, not all of them can break down complex processes or political events into short, simple and yet clear sentences. So, some people may agree with his views, some not but evidently he's good public speaker and presenter who makes history accessible to more people and in some way can inspire those people to go down into more sophisticated historical reading.
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    (Original post by Ory)
    Well, I doubt he was an idiot. His graduates actually learn measurable skills get decent jobs from the actual subject matter they study, unlike those who take only Niall's classes. Most of my peers would regard studying history, or even lecturing in it as something of a hobby that anyone with a year 10 education could do. What exactly does completing a subject in history tell any employer these days, except of course an employer such as a history faculty at a university?
    Then again, what does completing a subject like physics or engineering tell to an employer of your typical graduate job?
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    Yes but does he suck? It seems that 1. History is not a pre requisite for any job and that learning accounting or languages would actually serve an historian better 2. These are things you can do in your own time 3. Most people with a Year 10 education could also gather the facts from libraries, sources, and then write a lengthy opinion piece or book without even doing a degree; after all, apart from the letters, laws, facts and primary sources - the rest is opinion and Ferguson's opinion is like anyones - in fact people are realizing the Emporer has no clothes. His former students who are now working at Jack in the Box must be ****ed that they spent 20 grand a year learning about stuff their uncle who is a doctor, lawyer, or dentist could talk about in their sleep.

    Borat makes Ferguson look like a chump. Buchanan makes Ferguson look like a chump. Almost all of the 20 something law students at Harvard would make Ferguson look like a chump and probably say "what's the point"? as they could do the kind of thing Ferguson does in their spare time - and they wouldn't be as douchey about it.
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    (Original post by Ory)
    Niall Ferguson Sucks.

    At least that's what my professor said some years ago.

    Discuss.
    I think you'll find a lot of academics dislike so-called 'media-dons' or tv historians because they are often no more extensively qualified, but earn so much more for doing what they perceive to be a less scholarly job. Perhaps its because they're bitter that someone has the charisma and the clarity of thought to take history to the masses and make it presentable; historians aren't usually known for their accessible or exhilarating prose unfortunately.

    Not sure why there is such resentment. It's not as if historians like Schama, Starkey, Ferguson et al have taken the 'easy route'. Schama in particular is exceptionally erudite and a global specialist in his field. He has every right to be earning a top salary. AJP Taylor as well - it may have been his belligerent personality that made him the first 'media-don', but he was also exceptionally learned and an expert on modern German history.
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    (Original post by fuzzybear)
    Then again, what does completing a subject like physics or engineering tell to an employer of your typical graduate job?
    You are dodging the issue - does Ferguson suck?

    To answer your question - science/engineering are pre requisites to becoming a scientist or engineer - they are required by professional bodies. You're a student - and you don't know this?
Updated: May 15, 2012
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