First appeared in the Boston Globe.www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/09/24/qa_with_niall_ferguson
WHEN THE Glasgow-born Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and I got together in his office last week, he asked if he might prepare tea before we launched into a discussion of his new book, "The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West."
Gracious as the offer was, in England, where Ferguson, 42, spends part of the year as an Oxford research fellow (he's also a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and the Los Angeles Times), he is known less for his disarmingly good manners than for inciting controversy. In "The Pity of War: Explaining World War I" (1998), he proposed that the 20th century would have been less murderous had Germany won the First World War--a thesis that could easily irk an Englishman. In "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" (2004), and in numerous newspaper pieces, he challenges Americans to rethink their place in the world.