Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The War of the World” as Want to Read:
The War of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The War of the World

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,817 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
Astonishing in its scope and erudition, this is the magnum opus that Niall Ferguson's numerous acclaimed works have been leading up to. In it, he grapples with perhaps the most challenging questions of modern history: Why was the twentieth century history's bloodiest by far? Why did unprecedented material progress go hand in hand with total war and genocide? His quest for ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Penguin Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The War of the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The War of the World

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 10, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The explanations that we learn in high school for history's most horrible events tend to remain with us unchanged, unless we really look deep. Ferguson challenges many of the assumptions about the causes of the 20th Century's dreadful violence and is convincing. Living in Jerusalem, I've often seen how conventional wisdom about the persistent violence of the Middle East seems to miss the mark. That only makes me more convinced that Ferguson is right in refusing to accept the reasons advanced by ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by Ferguson that I've read. I was pleased with this effort--it was well-researched, and although it covers material amply familiar to any 20th century history buff, it was engaging not only because of Ferguson's fluid style but also because of his unconventional take on the causes and dynamics of human conflict and cruelty. You may or may not agree with some of his interpretations but he makes convincing arguments which make one want to research the topic in greater depth. ...more
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's...that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied...With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter."
-- H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Niall Ferguson, the young Oxford fellow who gratingly insist
Jun 02, 2010 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There is something about this guy’s work that is a little annoying. Like his The Ascent of Money, it was almost there, but not quite. I needed something on World War Two recently and saw this and bought it, but it has a much broader interest than just that conflict.

The idea behind this is fascinating – pretty much that we like to think most of the conflicts of the last century were ideological, when in fact they were mostly ethnic. There is some fascinating stuff on the formation of Turkey and t
May 04, 2009 Libyrinths rated it really liked it
Ferguson attempts to address the question of what made the 20th C so bloody with a surprising hypothesis. He says that racism and ethnic hostilities were the culprit, triggered by economic volatility and declining empires. He then, beginning with WWI and ending in current times but focusing mostly on WWII, describes the ethnic and racist aspects of major wars, minor wars, wars within wars, internal wars of totalitarian regimes, etc.

He calls his premise a hypothesis, and he makes a good start at
Jan 14, 2011 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pretty poor. Tries to be "controversial" and "iconoclastic" etc, but is actually a pretty standard history of WW2 with few if any new insights. What's worse, it has little logic (he often contradicts himself: at one time WW1 is shown by analysis of the financial markets to be completely unexpected and a few pages later it's the outcome of a long period of rising tension), and shows little historical sense (quite reasonably slagging off Bernard Shaw for falling for Stalin's regime, he never asks ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Curtis added it
Recommends it for: Historians Political Scientists General Public
OK today I have the time to follow up on this book. This is a bit off the cuff but for those undergraduates of you who didn't read it until the day before you were assigned to speak in front of the class it will give you some nuggets to work with.

Firstly the author Mr. Furguson has a penchant for writing what one might almost call big history that is looking beyond the titles we find convenient when analyzing say the 20s or the 30s or even World Wars One and Two. This author may delve into some
Nick Black
This is not "a revolutionary look at humanity's most murderous century" so much as a scattershot economic and military history of Eurasia, 1940-1945. There's several places where Ferguson attacks other authors' claims, but targets rather dubious, second-rate literature--there's no great corrections to Shirer, or Trevor-Roper, or Beevor, or Tuchman, or any of the other accepted canon. These challenges furthermore regard "controversies" like to what depth Stalin had planed a preemptive invasion of ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The fall of Empires, says Ferguson in this impressively solid masterpiece, is generally more bloody than their rise. Even without his thorough account of a century of conflict and the extinction of the European Empires and recent rise of Asia, the conclusion would be hard to deny, as the industrial age culminated in a series of crimes so vast as to eclipse the public conscience of earlier wars. Not for nothing is the Godwin the ultimate signal that an internet thread has descended into anarchy.

Jan 25, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! This is a very serious and dense book when Ferguson explores the deep themes of war. His main premise is that in the 50 years between the start of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904/5 and the end of the Korean War, that more humans died in conflicts that at any time in the history of mankind. He documents that opinion at length and explores major themes:
- economic volatility,
- ethnic conflict; and
- the descent of European power.

Details: Ferguson explores issues of racial tension in very s
Sep 07, 2009 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about killing. That's about it. Mostly it's about the mass extermination of humans. And the economics of killing lots and lots and lots of people. If you're interested in why people hate and kill millions of people, this might be a book for you. But there isn't even much "why" in the book. There are a lot of numbers. Pages and pages of numbers...of people...killed by the tens of thousands. There's not much else in its 646 pages.

Niall Ferguson is a well-respected historian. He loo
Carlo Ba
Typical Book written by and made for Establishment.

2 out of 5 Stars. Ferguson didn't add any thing new to the historical view of "World War" but only reinforced the same old song and dance.

As a Hedge Fund Investment Banker during the height of the Financial Crisis, I found "his" research a bit disingenuous that he didn't write a thing about how banks FUND most of the wars around the Globe especially when the title of this book is "The War of the World".

He admits in the credits that he had at lea
Jun 15, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Niall Ferguson's breath-taking overview of the violent 20th century is certainly worth the time taken to read it. Even with my familiarity with history, I feel that there was something to learn and contemplate on every page. While his conclusions are complex and difficult to sum up, the endless atrocities of the bloody previous century were a result of man's infinite ability to see other classes, ethnic groups, religions and tribes as enemies, and practice unconstrained mass brutality, whether d ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
May 27, 2014 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it
Niall Ferguson approaches history from an economic point of view. This gives them something most histories of the 20th century do not have. His research is careful and he thinks about things in a new way. This was one of the best books I've read in the last year. Here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say:

"Why, if life was improving so rapidly for so many people at the dawn of the 20th century, were the next hundred years full of brutal conflict? Ferguson has a relatively simple answer: ethnic un
Steven Peterson
Niall Ferguson's The War of the World has received a fair amount of "buzz." And, indeed, as one reads it, the scholarship, the knowledge of historical nuances, and the command of the sweep of the 20th century are all readily apparent. However, in the end, the book is somewhat unsatisfying.

The book begins with an interesting notion, namely that life was rapidly improving as the twentieth century began. However, the puzzle addressed by Ferguson follows from that: why did the rest of the century b
Sep 22, 2009 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niall Ferguson writes thick history books with controversial ideas. His argued in the Pity of War that Britain should have just sat out World War One and dealt with a German dominated Europe. In Colossus, he put forth the idea that the world needs America to be a real empire, but believed the country isn't up to the tasks. One of more recent books is War of the World which explores the incredibly violent 20th century. His argument is that the break up of empires and the expansion of the national ...more
I came upon this book by way of the six-part documentary of the same name which based on the book and narrated by Ferguson. I knew of Ferguson prior but only his work on Economic History. Anyhow, the documentary is good but it doesn't give you an idea of the sheer detail contained in this book. In fact I willingly left this book after it's coverage of WW2 concluded. I felt two things at that moment: that if I read on it'd be lost in a sea of twentieth century politico-military history, and; that ...more
Jul 02, 2009 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is, by far, Niall Ferguson's most dangerous book. In what many believe to be a far-flung example of historical revisionism, Ferguson attempts to explain the 20th Century as one long episode of racial conflict. In the process, the line is often blurred as to who the heroes and villains of the century actually were. Ferguson's critique of the allied forces at the end of the WWII might leave a good many allied vets more than a little chafed. This book also takes a foray into interpretive histo ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Ferguson uses H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" as a pattern for the 20th Century "War of the World"--the period of world-wide violence that spanned approximately the first 50 years of the century. The causes: ethnic assimilation of closely allied ethnic groups and increasing economic volatility (both positive and negative) in a world of shrinking empires.

He uses demographic, historical, and cultural data to show that, contrary to what many take as a given, Germany in the 1930s was a country with
Mar 19, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Over the years, I have read quite a fair number of books on the origins through the end of World War II. While many were quite good, they frequently were more in tune with the events, not the underlying societal changes that motivated those events.
Within the last 30 - 40 years, History as a subject has made a transition from a "soft science" to more of one that utilizes statistics and looks at movements instead of individuals. This book is the first one that I had read covering the WWII era tha
Dom Watkins
Dec 09, 2014 Dom Watkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Niall Ferguson's War of the World is an examination of the horrific violence of the 20th century. Predominantly focussed on WW1 and WW2, Ferguson looks at the internecine nature of the conflicts than ran rampant throughout this period. He is loathe to take the easiest approach and draw a facile line between ill-conceived ideologies and violence - he seeks rather to examine the complex and numerous causes that led to a century of misery, countless human deaths and oppression.

The book is thorough
My second official audio book ever, and overall better experience than the first one (Niall Ferguson's Civilization from few weeks ago). The War of the World is pretty much a recap of countless individual works by numerous authors about the two World Wars and the Cold War that followed. But even though the story is not new and pretty much everything that Ferguson talks about in this book is well known to any decent fan of history, The War of the World is still an interesting read, because it has ...more
Sep 06, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-history
Bloody brilliant....this is what revisionist history should be....a second reading has left me less enthused but still a very good book...but the descent of the West? Only if you decided America cannot be included in this. The 20th was, after all, the American century and the East did not begin its true rise until near the end of the century...mostly EU propaganda...but a very good book for all that.
Aug 18, 2007 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well written, but Ferguson never really gets around to the "descent of the West" part of the book. The story is mostly a boiled down account of the first half of the 20th century with less than novel emphasis on the idea that much of the conflict was in fact ethnically driven and that even the victors did not come away from the era with clean hands.
Steve Evans
Jan 25, 2014 Steve Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There will no doubt be people who take issue with this remarkable account of organised violence the first half of the century just gone. They will perhaps want to dispute that it was the most violent period in human history, as the author admits might not be right in a postscript. It doesn't really matter, just as the nuance of historiography that some might find wrong-headed doesn't matter: the narrative Ferguson offers really shows clearly how awful this time was for people caught up in the co ...more
Ben House
May 22, 2016 Ben House rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a weighty study of the two world wars and related issues of the Twentieth Century. If someone wants to read about war in the trenches, the personalities of leaders and generals, and the battle by battle accounts, look elsewhere.
Ferguson focuses on larger issues, particularly the motivations for many of the brutalities of both the wars and the ideologies behind them. His contrast of Auschwitz and Hiroshima was right on point. The discussion of how many soldiers were still in the ranks whe
Ronald Jones
Jan 21, 2016 Ronald Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever spin on the famous science fiction novel by Jules Verne. But no, this is not War of the Worlds. The title is War of the World, the last word being singular. This expansive history is far from the realm of fiction. It is a sobering, all too real account of the horrendous atrocities that we as a species have perpetrated against one another over the course of the past century. The author covers all major 20th century wars and their associated ills. The hatreds and violence unleashed by econo ...more
Daniel Kibsgaard
Jul 10, 2013 Daniel Kibsgaard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An enlightening read that gives the events of the 20th century an informed analysis using a very wide range of historical sources. A fantastic read I recommend to anyone who wishes to have a deeper view of our own inhumane past.
Russell Jones
May 11, 2016 Russell Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First acquired this book ten years ago and it has taken me this long to get round to read it from cover to cover. This book always takes me back to my school history lessons when I decided to make History my primary subject at both GCSE, A-Level, Undergraduate and potentially Postgraduate levels. I can't say I agree with all the sentiments expressed in this work. However, it goes some way to challenge the assumption that both the First and Second World Wars were inevitable but rather their genes ...more
Nov 27, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vast research on the origins, idiosyncrasies, and parallels, of 20th century conflict.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830
  • The Third Reich At War (The History of the Third Reich, #3)
  • Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War
  • The Rise & Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change & Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000
  • 60 Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time - History's Biggest Mysteries, Cover-ups, And Cabals
  • The Isles: A History
  • The Psychopathic God
  • War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today
  • Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919
  • Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941
  • Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live & How We Think
  • Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
  • The Collapse of the Third Republic
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
  • Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy
  • The World Crisis, 1911-1918
  • The American Civil War: A Military History
  • Castles of Steel
Niall Ferguson is a British (Scottish) historian who specialises in financial and economic history as well as the history of empire. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He was educated at the private Glasgow Academy in Scotland, and at Magdalen College, Oxford.

He is best know
More about Niall Ferguson...

Share This Book

“In July 1900, at the time of the intervention against the Boxers, between 3,000 and 5,000 Chinese were drowned at Blagoveshchensk when they were forced by whip-wielding Cossacks and local Russian police to swim across the wide and fast-flowing Amur to the Chinese side. No boats were provided and those who resisted or refused to get in the water were shot or cut down with sabres. This little-known incident, a harbinger of so many twentieth-century massacres, lay bare the utter contempt with which the Russians regarded all Asiatic peoples. As Nikolai Gondatti, the governor of Tomsk, explained in 1911: ‘My task is to make sure that there are lots of Russians and few yellows here.” 0 likes
“What the complacent Russians forgot was that their strengths – above all, their technological superiority – were not a permanent monopoly conferred by Providence on people with white skin. There was in fact nothing biological to prevent Asians from adopting Western forms of economic and political organization, nor from replicating Western inventions. The first Asian country to work out how to do so was Japan.” 0 likes
More quotes…