The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook
Niall Ferguson
Penguin Press
Date of publication
The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook

History is the sum of what historians and power have included in it. The well-known historian Niall Ferguson calls it the “tyranny of the archives.” And as a result of his previews books, Ferguson’s central thesis in The Square and the Tower is that “social networks have always been much more important in history than most historians, fixated as they have been on hierarchical organizations such as states, have allowed.”

Without deepening very much in the explanation of his theory, this historian offers a reinterpretation of the structures that have decided history the most: the point of view of more horizontal networks instead of the perspective of hierarchical institutions (kingdoms, empires, states, armies…), that are more common in historiography.

The nine chapters are full of examples. To illustrate some of those, Ferguson uses network graphs, brought from social network analysis, which he had applied before, especially in his first of two volumes of a Henry Kissinger’s biography based on his private papers.

The book about the former Secretary of State of the United States, as the author says, was based on one question: how did he become practically the most powerful person in the world? His answer: networking. So, if one of the most important politicians in the twentieth century became so powerful because of networking, how many other times it has happened? What has been then the true importance of networks on the most decisive chapters of history?