Dragon Kings and Grey Rhinos: The World War of 1914-1918 and the Pandemic of 2020-? with Niall Ferguson

Thursday, May 7, 2020
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Image credit: 

It has become commonplace among beleaguered leaders seeking to rally popular support to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “war,” albeit against an “invisible enemy.” For a number of obvious reasons, a pandemic is very different from a war, of course. We think of a pandemic as a natural disaster, whereas a war as man-made. Nevertheless, the two kinds of disaster have much in common. This paper considers one particular point of resemblance, namely the way the pandemic came as a surprise to most people, despite numerous warnings of the likelihood of such a disaster. The paper then explores the economic, social, political and geopolitical consequences of World War I and shows what they can teach us about the possible consequences of the pandemic.

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard. He is the author of fifteen books, most recently The Square and the Tower, and an award-making filmmaker, having won an international Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money.



This talk is part of the History Working Group Seminar Series. A central piece of the History Working Group is the seminar series, which is hosted in partnership with the Hoover Library & Archives. The seminar series was launched in the fall of 2019, and thus far has included six talks from Hoover research fellows, visiting scholars, and Stanford faculty. The seminars provide outside experts with an opportunity to present their research and receive feedback on their work. While the lunch seminars have grown in reputation, they have been purposefully kept small in order to ensure that the discussion retains a good seminar atmosphere.

Upcoming Events