The War of the World

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2007, 12:00am

The War of the World


by Niall Ferguson


Penguin, HK$160


In the 20th century, between 167 million and 188 million people died as a result of war, says Niall Ferguson in this disturbing account of the worst 100 years of carnage visited on the human species. If anything else had been found to be responsible for one in 22 deaths, it would be banned. Alas, it's all the rage: 16 conflicts claimed more than one million lives, six wars 500,000 to one million, 14 between 250,000 and 500,000. Ferguson narrows down the bloodiest period to 1904-53 and declares it a 50-Year War that had as its features ethnic violence, economic volatility and declining European empires. The War of the World is 746 pages of well-researched and documented despair. His thesis is that the century marks the decline of the west, with Asia now on the rise. However, as Foreign Affairs points out, he overlooks a key insight: 'What triumphed in the 20th century was a western way of politics, economics and global governance'. Ferguson's blended analysis - economic, financial and political - is fresh, and not nearly as depressing as one might presume.