STARRED REVIEW
January 2018

Wisdom of the crowd

By Niall Ferguson
Review by

The most important changes in history have often been achieved by networks of informally organized groups of people rather than by hierarchies led by monarchs and governments. In his sweeping, stimulating and enlightening The Square and the Tower, noted historian Niall Ferguson draws from a wide range of sources to trace the crucial role that different kinds of human networks have played throughout history.

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The most important changes in history have often been achieved by networks of informally organized groups of people rather than by hierarchies led by monarchs and governments. In his sweeping, stimulating and enlightening The Square and the Tower, noted historian Niall Ferguson draws from a wide range of sources to trace the crucial role that different kinds of human networks have played throughout history.

Social network-based revolutions greatly transformed Western civilization, and Ferguson offers several convincing cases, such as the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, which were all the product of networks. For example, no ruler ordered the massive changes wrought in the Industrial Revolution. Instead, they occurred through the combining of capital and technological networks with networks of kinship, friendship and shared religion. Another example is the collapse of communism, as revolutions are networked phenomena. Individual leaders were important, but the growing number of citizens willing to stand against their governments was what fatally weakened the Eastern European regimes.

Ferguson’s superb, thought-provoking book brings these events vividly to life and will help readers view history from a unique perspective.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Square and the Tower

The Square and the Tower

By Niall Ferguson
Penguin Press
ISBN 9780735222915

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