What if everything we thought we knew about history was wrong? From the global bestselling author of Empire, The Ascent of Money and Civilization, this is a whole new way of looking at the world.
Most history is hierarchical: it’s about popes, presidents, and prime ministers. But what if that’s simply because they create the historical archives? What if we are missing equally powerful but less visible networks-leaving them to the conspiracy theorists, with their dreams of all-powerful Illuminati?
The twenty-first century has been hailed as the Networked Age. But in The Square and the Tower Niall Ferguson argues that social networks are nothing new. From the printers and preachers who made the Reformation to the freemasons who led the American Revolution, it was the networkers who disrupted the old order of popes and kings. Far from being novel, our era is the Second Networked Age, with the computer in the role of the printing press.
Those looking forward to a utopia of interconnected ‘netizens’ may therefore be disappointed. For networks are prone to clustering, contagions, and even outages. And the conflicts of the past already have unnerving parallels today, in the time of Facebook, Islamic State and Trumpworld.