The whole point about historians is that we are really communing with the dead. It’s very restful – because you read. There’s some sociopathic problem that makes me prefer it to human interaction.
It’s great to see countries like China and India lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty by essentially copying Western ways of doing things.
Only in England would ‘professor gets divorced and remarried’ be a story.
The great thing about behavioural psychology and economics is that they help us to see that there are actually pretty good reasons why human beings swing from greed to fear, and why we’re not really calculating machines or utility-maximisers.
As a financial historian, I was quite isolated in Oxford – British historians are supposed to write about kings – so the quality of intellectual life in my field is much higher at Harvard. The students work harder there.
Risk models are a substitute for historical knowledge, because they tend to work with just three years’ worth of data. But three years is not a long time in financial history.
What’s so seductive about the efficient markets hypothesis is that it applies nine years out of ten. A lot of the time it works. But when it stops working, you blow up.
Something that’s seldom appreciated about me is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I’m on the side of the bourgeoisie.
Over time, the welfare state has become dysfunctional in a surprising way. But in a way it became a victim of its own success: It became so successful at prolonging life, that it becomes financially unsustainable, unless you make major changes to things like retirement ages.
A historian is battling all the time to remember as much as possible.