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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > December 2017 > Rebels versus rulers

Rebels versus rulers

A new grand theory of history is carried off with panache and sardonic wit, says David Marquand

Arts & books

The revolution will be networked: Lenin Speaking to the Workers of the Putilov Factory by Isaak Brodsky

The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane, £25)

Niall Ferguson belongs to an endangered species. In an age of academic specialisation, when most historians devote themselves to learning more and more about less and less, Ferguson is a polymath. He scorns disciplinary boundaries, mixing economics with computer science and anecdotes with sweeping generalisations. As he puts it, he seeks to undermine the “tyranny of the archives.” He uses evidence drawn from a much wider range of sources than most historians dare to examine. In the last two decades, he has published an astonishing range of learned and intellectually provocative books, ranging from a financial history of the world entitled The Ascent of Money, to a study of the bloody 20th century, entitled The War of the World. He is also the author of a biography of the banker Siegmund Warburg, and in 2015 brought out the first volume of a projected two-volume biography of Henry Kissinger, challengingly subtitled The Idealist.

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In Prospect’s December issue: Adam Posen, Diane Coyle and Nicolas Véron examine the state of Britain’s economy with Brexit looming and suggest that with a large part of the City looking to move and with productivity remaining low the outlook is firmly negative. Posen suggests that the only thing capable of disciplining the Brexit economy is the reality that things are going to be worse. Coyle suggest that although Brexit will hamper Britain’s productivity, the problem is long-term. Véron argues that more than a tenth of the City’s business will disappear due to Brexit—a significant slice that will be difficult to cover off. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield uncovers what is going on at Dfid, the struggling government department that recently lost its Secretary of State. Nick Cohen looks at the rise of the Strong Man is Eastern Europe as Viktor Orbán clamps down on society and Lizzie Porter reports from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region plagued by war and political instability.