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45 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 28 March 2011

Andrew Marr talks to Niall Ferguson about the history of civilisation, and how the West came to triumph over what appeared to be superior empires in the East, and whether that ascendancy is in permanent decline. While the economist George Magnus questions whether emerging markets, like China, really are about to dominate the world. The Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee next year, and the commentator Peter Whittle presents a robust defence of the monarchy as one of Britain's leading institutions. And as revolution and change sweep across the Middle East, Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed looks at the impact on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Producer: Katy Hickman.


    In the 15th century the most advanced civilizations were found in the Orient, such as Ming Beijing in China and the Ottomans in the Near East. In contrast, Europe suffered from disease, poor sanitation and near-constant war. Yet, before long, Western European society had overtaken the East and it went on to dominate the rest of the world for most of the next five hundred years. In his new book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, the historian Niall Ferguson argues that there were six elements which enabled the West to outperform the East: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. However, Ferguson warns that the world is changing and we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy.

    Civilization: The West and the Rest is published by Allen Lane and the accompanying television series continues on Channel 4 on Sunday 3 April.

    Niall Ferguson

    In recent years it’s become common to hear predictions that China will soon become the pre-eminent economy and will dominate the 21st century. But the economist George Magnus is sceptical of China’s inevitable supremacy. He argues that like other emerging markets, it suffers from political and institutional weaknesses. China’s lack of democracy and an independent judiciary will hamper its continued sustained economic growth.

    George Magnus is giving a talk on Tuesday 29 March at Asia House in London: “Can the Economies of Asia Flourish in the Post Crisis World?” and his book Uprising: Will Emerging Markets Shape or Shake the World Economy? is published by Wiley.

    George Magnus

    While revolution has swept across the Middle East, a ‘Day of Rage’ organised in Saudi Arabia was firmly and quickly quashed by the government. But Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed, author of A History of Saudi Arabia, argues that despite the crackdown on protest, the country is ripe for change. High unemployment, especially among the increasing number of young people, has led to growing resentment at royal nepotism and corruption. As in Egypt, bloggers and users of social media have been at the forefront of dissent, but the Saudi government has proved adept at using the internet for its own purposes.

    A History of Saudi Arabia has been updated and is published by Cambridge University Press.

    Madawi Al-Rasheed

    This year the Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee with events all over the country. Tens of millions of British people have never known any other monarch and her approval ratings remain high. But what of the institution she heads? In Monarchy Matters, Peter Whittle mounts a robust defence of ‘The Firm’ as a force for good in the country. Despite damaging revelations about members of the royal family, Whittle argues that the public overwhelmingly supports the monarchy and, in contrast, the media is overly-cynical and disdainful. He believes that the monarchy is becoming more, not less, relevant in the 21st century, and it acts as a vital unifying force in an increasingly fragmented society.

    Monarchy Matters is published by the Social Affairs Unit.

    Peter Whittle


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