The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson
Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook

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Whether or not the concept of networks in general can illuminate history quite as much as Ferguson thinks, he does a depressingly good job of evoking the dangers posed by our reliance on electronic networks.
-Guardian

Synopsis

A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a collision between old power hierarchies and new social networks

Most history is hierarchical: it's about emperors, presidents, prime ministers and field marshals. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. Even history "from below" is often about trade unions and workers' parties. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the informal, less well documented social networks that are the true sources of power and drivers of change?

The 21st century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real.

From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks, and shows how network theory--concepts such as clustering, degrees of separation, weak ties, contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present.

Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective, so The Square and the Tower does the same for Silicon Valley. And it offers a bold prediction about which hierarchies will withstand this latest wave of network disruption--and which will be toppled.
 

About Niall Ferguson

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Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the bestselling author of "The House of Rothschild" and "Colossus,
 
Published January 16, 2018 by Penguin Press. 608 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Computers & Technology, Business & Economics. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Feb 04 2018
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Square and the Tower
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Oct 17 2017

Making profitable use of information science, Ferguson offers a novel way of examining data that will be highly intriguing to students of history and current affairs.

Read Full Review of The Square and the Tower: Net... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Anthony Gottlieb on Oct 12 2017

Whether or not the concept of networks in general can illuminate history quite as much as Ferguson thinks, he does a depressingly good job of evoking the dangers posed by our reliance on electronic networks.

Read Full Review of The Square and the Tower: Net... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Andrew Anthony on Sep 24 2017

The effect is dizzying more​ than​ stimulating. Ferguson’s breadth of learning is often impressive, but by the end of the book I was little more secure in my understanding of what ​he was trying to get at than at the beginning.

Read Full Review of The Square and the Tower: Net... | See more reviews from Guardian

Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by Robert Collison on Jan 26 2018

Complementing Ferguson’s big-theme tour d’horizon are profiles of private networks whom conspiracy theorists believe were secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Read Full Review of The Square and the Tower: Net... | See more reviews from Toronto Star

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