In the book he argues that whilst most history appears hierarchical, we have overlooked the influence of powerful but less visible networks, which have transformed the established world order as effectively as any Pope, President or Prime Minister.

During his talk, Professor Ferguson said that that social networks are nothing new: "From the printers and preachers who made the Reformation to the free masons who led the American Revolution, it was the networkers who disrupted the old order of popes and kings."

However he cautioned that those looking to a utopia of interconnected 'netizens' in the age of social media may be disappointed. Because he says that networks are prone to clustering, contagions and even outages. He compared the unnerving parallels today, in the time of Facebook, Islamic State and Trumpworld to the conflicts of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Professor Ferguson continued: "If you don't want the world to be in a state of perpetual conflict, then there needs to be some sort of hierarchical order...a networked world will descend into anarchy.

Listen to the lecture here.

View Niall's book here.

Niall Ferguson is a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard. He is also a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He has written fourteen books, including The House of Rothschild, Empire, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, The Great Degeneration and Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist.

The Legatum Institute is an international think tank and educational charity head-quartered in central London. The Institute’s work focuses on understanding, measuring, and explaining the journey from poverty to prosperity for individuals, communities, and nations.