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The Penguin Press



Kissinger:1923-1968: The Idealist

Edited by Scott Moyers

The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger, based on unprecedented access to his private papers, by an acclaimed historian at the height of his powers

No American statesman has been as revered and as reviled as Henry Kissinger. Yet as Niall Ferguson shows in this magisterial biography, the idea of Kissinger as the ruthless arch-realist is based on a profound misunderstanding. Drawing not only on Kissinger’s hitherto closed private papers but also on documents from more than a hundred archives around the world, Ferguson argues that the true foundation of Kissinger’s thought is philosophical idealism. This first of two volumes examines Kissinger’s considerable achievements before his appointment as Nixon’s national security adviser. He spent his adolescence toiling in a New York factory, studying at night, then served in the U.S. infantry during the Second World War before finding his vocation at Harvard, where he shot to celebrity by arguing for “limited nuclear war” and was subsequently hired by Nelson Rockefeller and called to Camelot by Kennedy. The Idealist is the story of the single most important strategic thinker America has ever produced. It is also a political Bildungsroman, explaining how “Dr. Strangelove” ended up as consigliere to a politician he had always abhorred. Like Ferguson’s classic two-volume history of the House of Rothschild, Kissinger sheds dazzling new light on an entire era. The essential account of an extraordinary life, it recasts the cold war world.


Other books by Niall Ferguson


“Magisterial….Like Mr. Kissinger or loathe him, this is a work of engrossing scholarship.” The Economist

“Mr. Ferguson offers a remarkably rich discussion of Mr. Kissinger’s strategic thought and of how it took shape over time… The book… is well worth reading as a corrective to harsher historical judgments of Mr. Kissinger.” Wall Street Journal

“If Kissinger’s official biographer cannot be accused of falling for his subject’s justifiably famed charm, he certainly gives the reader enough evidence to conclude that Henry Kissinger is one of the greatest Americans in the history of the Republic, someone who has been repulsively traduced over several decades and who deserved to have  defense of this comprehensiveness published years ago….Niall Ferguson already has many important, scholarly and controversial books to his credit.  But if the second volume of “Kissinger” is anywhere near as comprehensive, well written and riveting as the first, this will be his masterpiece.” —Andrew Roberts, The New York Times Book Review

“Combine careful and extensive scholarship, clear writing, and a magnificent subject and you get Niall Ferguson on Kissinger, a genuinely educational read.”—George P. Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State

“When an accomplished historian writes about one of the world’s great diplomats, the results are sure to be a masterpiece — and that is exactly how to describe Niall Ferguson’s epic on Henry Kissinger.”—James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State

“This is a terrific biography, and a must read for understanding the evolution of one of the most important and compelling architects of American foreign policy of our time.”—Condoleezza Rice, 66th U.S. Secretary of State and Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

“With all that’s been written about Kissinger over so many years, you might think that there’d be little new to say. Think again. Niall Ferguson’s Kissinger: The Idealist shifts the trajectory of Kissinger studies fundamentally. Always thorough, often surprising, at times deeply moving, this is an extraordinary biography of the most significant scholar-statesman-strategist of our time, by one of our most accomplished historians. Not to be missed.”—John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University

“Ferguson’s biography will be a classic. This is a story of an influential, complex, and shrewd historical figure set in the context of the drama of America and the world in the mid-20th Century. Ferguson’s research is fresh and revealing, his writing is pleasure to read, and his insights are sharp and thought-provoking.”—Robert B. Zoellick, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Former President of the World Bank, and U.S. Trade Representative

“Fresh and imaginative, this carefully researched biography reads like a novel. Under Niall Ferguson’s skilled pen, Kissinger the public colossus becomes Henry the boy and man. A wonderful read!”—Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and author of Is the American Century Over?



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