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History and human nature

Niall Ferguson's "punk Gibbon" account of the horrors of the 20th century is enjoyable—until his semi-educated foray into evolutionary psychology

By Nicholas Humphrey   September 2006

The War of the World by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane, £25)

Writing in response to Germany’s invasion of Belgium in 1914, James Barr, a physician and former president of the British Medical Association, had this to say: “The German Kultur must be exterminated, and this savage breed as far as possible wiped out… Germany has produced no genius, there is no scope for individualism, her work is the collective wisdom of commonplace savants, she has never produced nor is ever likely to produce a super-man… The Allies have shown their manhood and the capacity to rule, we must therefore… raise…

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