As a deadly pandemic and civil unrest swept across the world last year, “unprecedented” became the word of the hour. While 2020 was an uncommon year, the tendency to think that our time has no historical analogue is a common error—one that can have serious consequences if it causes us to ignore the lessons of the past.
Niall Ferguson’s new book, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, offers a corrective, arguing that we must understand past calamities to put today’s into proper perspective. Investigating the common features of geological, geopolitical, biological, and technological disasters, Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, offers a general theory of catastrophes and explains why our responses to them so often falter.
On June 17th, the Manhattan Institute hosted a virtual book talk with Niall Ferguson and City Journal editor Brian C. Anderson about Doom, the history of catastrophes, and the lessons learned—and forgotten—during the Covid-19 crisis.