Image - Niall Ferguson
Image - Niall Ferguson
Image - Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson: The Politics of Catastrophe

Disasters are inherently inevitable in life. We cannot predict the next earthquake, wildfire, financial crisis, war or pandemic, but we can predict how to handle each situation better. Unexpected calamities have happened all throughout human history, yet even in the 21st century we are ill-prepared to recover from them. In the new book Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, popular historian Niall Ferguson explores the reasoning behind this phenomena and offers solutions on how to handle unforeseen circumstances of mass misfortune.

Ferguson has spent his academic career lecturing on the international, financial, and economic history of British and American imperialism. In his new book, Ferguson uses centuries of knowledge to understand the complex pathologies at work that make societies fail in the face of disaster. He offers the lesson he says the West urgently needs to learn if we want to handle the next crisis better and avoid the ultimate doom of irreversible decline.

Join us as Niall Ferguson offers an explanation of disaster response and strategies to make us better at handling the next catastrophe we will inevitably face.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently hosting all of our live programming via YouTube live stream. This program was recorded via video conference on June 1st, 2021 by the Commonwealth Club of California.

Image - Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson

Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Author, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe; Twitter @nfergus

Image - Maya Jasanoff

In Conversation with Maya Jasanoff

Coolidge Professor of History, Harvard University