• Agree! Three years before the Berlin Wall came down, a Captain from the US Embassy in London explained to a busload of us (NATO folk) heading out of Brussels why the USSR was going to collapse in a few years. He talked about oil prices, declining productivity, technology lag and so on. He never once mentioned a shortage of blue jeans. We all laughed, but he was right, too right in fact. Niall has a way to go.

      • Simplified? Missing POV? Really.

        First, Ferguson’s is a point of view, it not not all points of view. Deal with it on its own merits and don’t ignore it on the grounds that it isn’t a dedux of ALL views.

        Second, as a conservative I am quite used to the ALL Views position but it is usually my side that is complaining that liberals do little but read themselves, discuss among themselves and agree amidst themselves. Liberals cannot see beyond themselves because not other views is “worthy” in the first place.

    • A lot of very good information and seems well researched. I think there are many lessons for us; and i believe we all need to take heed.

    • Not bad in general, but a little pedantic in using the term “killer app” all the time and the repetitive use of the same footage in different parts was annoying. Not really up to the high standards of PBS in my opinion.

    • I found the full program very interesting the thing that was clear to me the program about the success of whites people this program could be called the whites and the rest. Poeple of color had some advances but it was always lost because they had no killer apps. So people of color can only wait for good whites to come and save them and provide killer apps. I’m recommending the program to others I hope it creates somes discussion

      • I don’t think this was about whites and the other, this was about the nation which choose to be govern and grow by meritocracy and the others. The documentary is very valuable, and Ferguson is also trying to warn the west to continue with meritocracy and democracy(freedom to choose), something that the rest fail to have totally.

  1. Would like to know where the producers found the passenger list of the “Carolina” I saw what is possibly the name of the first member of one branch of my family. “Roi… Barefoot/Barfoot”.

  2. Thanks for the informative documentary. I look forward to the next episode. Your take on the cause of Western growth is very different than Jared Diamond’s idea that the germs from animals and the west-east shape of Europe were the main causes of Western dominance. Diamond’s ideas don’t explain why China was so dominant until the 1400s, and why China and Islam both became anti-books and anti-science.
    Have you read the “Lucifer Principle” by Harold Bloom? And if so, how influenced were you by Bloom’s idea that it’s the competition of biological and memetic selection that causes societies to grow and to thrive, and that it’s the attempts to stop competition that lead to the downfall of most, if not, all societies?
    Bloom’s view is completely different than Jared Diamond’s belief that environmental degradation is the main cause of the collapse of civilizations.

  3. This is an extemely relevant and provocative piece. Perhaps this will ignite a debate we so desperately need to have. Unfortunately many in the US who need to see this most will probably never watch it.

    One part of the puzzle does appear to be missing: The rights and treatment of women and how they shape civilization. The reproductive, educational, and property rights of women are rarely mentioned in the destiny of civilization, yet surely it has a profound influence. (While slavery is an important issue, it is often forgotten that the blacks had the right to vote in the US long before women) A story worth telling and analyzing? Surely women’s reproductive rights have had a huge impact on the health and affluence of the family and the nation. As women go, so goes the nation.

    • Morally you have a point. Economically, reproductive rights does not much figure into the calculus of why one system is superior to another.

      • There is nothing more important than a mother’s love, especially in the first few months of life. This love nourishes the child and the whole human family. We can’t live without it.

  4. The First past of the program was most educational about the conflict of Ottoman empire and the seige of 1683 of Vienna.
    This was information I had not heard.
    This was 1683 — Past Elizabeth 1st & Shakespear and
    almost the time of Newton publishing Pricipias…
    That if Vienna had been conquered, what would have
    happened Next? ..
    The 2nd part explaining the internal change to a religious
    state banning the use of Books and the internal corruption of
    patronage by wealth indicating why the Ottoman Turkey went
    into decline was also new information.

  5. immensely educational and enlightening. thank you so much.
    why our commercial media failed to produce this kind of informative, intelligent tv?

  6. Jared Diamond is popular, but like another popular ‘scientist’ he’s a complete fraud. his ideas are promoted not because they are valid, but because they re-enforce ideas radical egalitarianism and totalitarian humanism.

    • Jared Diamond is using popular culture and the humanistic movement to sell a very entertaining bunch of theories.

  7. “The 2nd part explaining the internal change to a religious
    state banning the use of Books and the internal corruption of
    patronage by wealth indicating why the Ottoman Turkey went
    into decline was also new information.”

    The ottaman empire was always an Islamic one as well, it simply became a different sort of one.

    Is another factor that places like, say Athens, Florence were small & homogenous vs multiculti ‘empires’ that require a more authoritarian government to hold it together? (hmm kind of like we’re getting as we become more multicultral?)

    Spain went into it’s golden age AFTER expelling the moors, and led by a devoutly religious Queen Isabel.. – it led to Velasquez, Cervantese, Zurubran, Riberia and countless other painters –
    Religion doesn’t automatically equate with book banning, in fact Protestantism increased literacy (you had to read the bible to be saved) and the university is a product of medieval Christendom. (as is the scientific method – it assumed ‘god’s order’ .. however, I have never heard of a multicultral/multiethinic ‘democracy’ work.

    • Perhaps you have never heard of Canada, a rather successful little backwater democracy just north of USA. Multicultural/Democracy and it works. Sometimes it pays to do a little research before spouting off.

  8. I have lived in South America and firsthand seen the abject poverty of some of its residents. This program helped answer a lot of questions about that poverty.

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  10. Thank you for telling this story – you perform a great service bringing all this information forward. However, you neglected the latter half of the amazing career of explorer Zheng He. His final voyage – a victory lap after all his earlier explorations – was a journey which included meeting the Pope in 1434 in Italy which may have transfered enough knowledge & techniques to ignite the European Renaissance. See Gavin Menzies’ books “1421″ & “1434″ & associated websites.

  11. How did the Carolinas go from having a large number of indentured servants, who were without any rights at all, for the period of their servitude, to a social system accepting of black slavery? All these people had already experienced what it meant to be the lowest of the low. It seems likely that, in accepting slavery, the society was expressing the idea that there are masters and there are rulers in the world, as opposed to true democracy. After all, this concept had existed in the Europe they came from, and was the social order for centuries, Perhaps they just couldn’t let go of this idea. In that sense it resembled South America.

    • I too, wonder why the So. American method of getting work done was not described as ‘slavery’.
      No. American labor was done by imported Africans. So. American work was done by natives made to work by their conquerers. What’s the difference? Did So. American natives get paid or treated any better?

      • Well, It was slavery… The thing is that after South American independance there no longer was any of this “slavery” because the people in the poorest regions were no longer forced to provide for their master but were left alone to a life of survival work which was just alittle better than what they previously had. Ofcourse that still goes on in many parts of South America which is not good. But the point is that North America kept that forced slavery after its independence which did not happen in south america. BTW my family is from that exact part of Peru he used as an example on the first episode.

  12. PBS/WNET,

    I missed the first part on Tuesday was hoping to catch it online but I’m still getting “The video selected is not currently available”. Is there chance that the video would be made available?

  13. A great analysis, with that list of killer apps. To it I would add at least a couple: 1) revision and change, and 2) individualism.

    And this latter is the one that all other cultures reject, regardless of what else they adopt from the West.

  14. I am very sad that the video is not available on-line in Canada, however having read the book and watched Part I on PBS I must say I am a fan. Mr. Ferguson has become a staple of my Grade 12 Course on Comparative Ideologies. It is so refreshing to have an intellectual on the right who is capable of debating with the best on the left. I look forward to his next Munk Debate. Thanks for doing what you do Niall and thanks to PBS for supporting this program.

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  16. Love the program. Looking forward to Part 2. Always enjoy Niall Ferguson’s presentations of his work. One of the reasons I am a PBS member.

  17. I find your discourse on five hundred years of civilization very interesting – I have made it a homework assignment for my Miami Dadeo College ESL class which includes students from China, Europe and South America. My Russian student of Asian ancestry wondered why you did not include the Mongolian Empire – the largest empire in history. What was the cause of its demise? I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s program and an exciting class discussion.

  18. This program tuned out to be a big disappointment. Wholesale generalization (protestants work harder) , inconsistencies (religion is sometimes necessary at some places), inaccuracies (Edison & AC?), fallacies (the more church the more wealth?), wasp-fetish (throughout the show), wrong assertions (productivity has been increasing in the US not the other way around), etc

    • Agreed. And the assertion that the west collects money from taxpayers and “wastes it?” Like on PBS and NPR?

  19. Watching a second part in its entirety the whole documentary comes to a full and balanced presentation. It’s a commendable work by the narrator Prof. Ferguson about sticking to the points and not going off track even for a one letter. It quite reminded me of no nonsense bold presentation of BBC documentaries. However, motif apart, there were some instances I felt, some expressions which could have been edited but, that’s just my view. It hasn’t much effected however an overall presentation. Since I try to be a keen observer and studious to such important subject matter. I would like to have an opportunity to and I know it sounds crazy, but to have an in depth review and discussion of entire documentary with the kind professor if he is to offer any seminar or something; who knows, counting on American freedom and generosity may be having a kind opportunity to sit with him and discuss even.It may seem like a lot to expect but my genuine attempt hopefully won’t go unheard or read. Hard to put in lengthy question on this format online.And I don’t even have my own computer or a internet service I have rely on limited library hours or friends to send my messages. I have a genuine interest to learn about this subject matter. Unfortunately, not everyone can have a pupilage at Harvard but, there hopefully may be professor’s kindness will allow to have me that opportunity.

  20. Great show! Having traveled to China on business 6 times over the past 3 years, I came away with the same strong impression as the program. Those people over there have the Protestant work ethic. Funny, as a colleague who graduated from Calvin College cannot stand China…… go figure. I was not aware of the rising practice of Christainity. That is certainly surprising and most welcome as the areas where I visited, Zhuhai, Macau, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Shenyang, and Beijing seemed extremely ruthless in the materialism exhibited. Adam Smith’s earlier book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” lays the ethical and moral underpinnings of his later work “The Wealth of Nations”. The father of modern economics knew of the connection. All in all, we especially in the US, are living in the result of the Scottish Enlightenment. The book “How The Scots Invented The Modern World” makes a good case for that?

  21. Ferguson is an apologist for colonialism and he seems to consider the use of slave labor as some kind of aberation. After all, the wealth of the US was built on its slave labor. And as for the hard work ethic, who actually built the railroads in the US or for that matter India? Chinese and Indians. How “civilized” is it to take over a country like India (often through deceit and lying) and steal its resources? Many of the so-called civilized Brits in Indian and Africa (also Spanish and Portuguese in Latin America) were insufferable racists. Ferguson will no doubt appeal to those who like to ignore the hisotrical realities of their pre-eminent positions.

  22. At the worlds fair electrification was because of Tesla and Westinghouse NOT Edison.
    Diverse Protestantism appeals primarlily to women seeking the nest in the afterlife and men wanting money and power in this life. Prtestantism epitomizes these goal re John Calvin. God is meely a vehicle

  23. I think the documentary was well done, however there are some very large gaps in explaining the why. The Chinese maybe becoming more religious but their rise in the last 30 years is not sitting on the shoulders of those religious pockets only. Turkeys revival on the economic front was not because of Ataturk who created a top heavy centralized and elitist country but the lions of Anatolia, religious and conservative Muslim business folk that turned that countries economy up. Apparently for them, Islam seems to be working just fine. The phenomenon in India, Singapore, UAE, was not talked about. The things that he got right beyond the shadow of a doubt are property rights of individuals and intellectual property rights which falls under Rule of law i guess and of course freedom of thought, which religion does not cater to. Over all great effort, but some narrow views about hard work and its link to a particular strain of religion over others.

  24. Was that the same blue shirt he wore around the world, or did he have a suitcase full off them? I would have carried that suitcase for him, just to see all the countries it took to make this documentary.

  25. See this program for what it is–propaganda. It panders to Americans and their values as superior, good and moral for the world. It is well masked neoconservatism and all its trappings (western religious superiority and monroe doctrine of eminent domain over all of the world). Fall for it and you’ve drunk the cool aid.

    When he describes real events, he sounds convincing, truthful even. But when describes the reasons behind the events, he is simply stating an opinion, so just keep that in mind. Not for a second let his opinions seduce you into a false sense of safety in a return to the American fundamentals of religion and might.

  26. Too bad Canadians are excluded from this discussion. We always get ‘video currently not available’ or “we are having technical difficulties”. We saw part of it on TV and it seemed interesting enough.

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  28. I enjoyed the show to a point, the point being too much Niall Ferguson. He made it one long polemic, a tedious way to tell a story. I suppose there’s more to the series, but I’m not sure I can stand another round of tedium. I would much rather watch Jared Diamond, who makes his take on history engaging.

    As for the polemic itself, there just isn’t much to it. Protestant work ethic, save, best of all possible worlds. One thing that is historically false is the statement that the fall of the Roman empire was the first fall of Western Civilization.

    It wasn’t. Western Civilization didn’t exist then. It was Roman Civilization. What we know as Western Civilization evolved afterward, a synthesis of a number of influences, largely, but not only, the spread of Christianity.

    PBS should know better than to offer someone’s ego trip as a historical excursion and travelogue. I suspect it is due to the media politics of the locus of documentary production – Boston. Were it elsewhere, say Princeton, we might be seeing a different polemic. I suggest someone try to tell the story without a polemic.

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