Niall Ferguson
Professor of History, Harvard University

What is your question?

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A lesson from an investment banker.

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson is a Scottish-born historian, political commentator, and public intellectual. He is also the Lawrence Tisch Professor of History at Harvard.  Ferguson graduated from Magdalen College and studied for two years as a Hanseatic Scholar in Hamburg and Berlin. Before joining the Harvard faculty, Ferguson taught at Oxford University and New York University.

A prolific commentator on contemporary politics and economics—he came out in favor of the Iraq War in 2003—Ferguson is a contributing editor for the Financial Times and publishes regularly elsewhere in the British and American press. In 2004, Time magazine named him one of the world's hundred most influential people. Ferguson is the bestselling author of the popular histories The Pity of War: Explaining World War One, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, and The War of the World. Ferguson splits his time between the United Kingdom and the United States.


Question: What should we be asking ourselves?

Ferguson: Somebody told me recently that at one of the investment banks in New York, the question that everybody is thinking when they’re looking at you is, “What are you doing for my deal?”  And I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves. 

We should be asking ourselves, “What have I done today to make the world more intelligent to me or to other people?” Because it’s understanding that we most lack, that we must strive hardest for. Anything that you do to advance the sum of human knowledge is time well spent.


Recorded on: Oct 15 2007