James Fergusson

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James Fergusson

Journalist and author, expert on Islam and the Taliban

James Fergusson is a journalist and award-winning author who specialises in Islamic affairs. A frequent speaker on national television and radio, and a regular lecturer on the military circuit, he is the author of three books on Afghanistan. He is noted as an early champion of a political settlement with the Taliban, a movement that he has long argued is misunderstood. This once unfashionable stance was later justified when it became official Western policy.

His latest book, The World’s Most… 

James Fergusson is a journalist and award-winning author who specialises in Islamic affairs. A frequent speaker on national television and radio, and a regular lecturer on the military circuit, he is the author of three books on Afghanistan. He is noted as an early champion of a political settlement with the Taliban, a movement that he has long argued is misunderstood. This once unfashionable stance was later justified when it became official Western policy.

His latest book, The World’s Most Dangerous Place – Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, was shortlisted in 2014 for the prestigious Orwell Prize for political writing. It explores the security threat represented by the “world’s most failed state” – the principle gateway to Africa for Islamic extremism – and questions whether recent political progress there has addressed the underlying issue in the Horn of Africa: how to cope with an exploding population, and in particular, how to accommodate the aspirations of the young.

Pursuing the same theme, James’s latest project has taken him to Yemen, where he is focused on resource issues: specifically, water. Sana’a, the ancient capital, is on course to become the first major city in modern times to ‘fail’ through lack of water – with security consequences not just for the Arab region but for the world. By way of preparation, in 2013 he completed a Master’s degree in Geo-environmental Engineering and Hydrogeology at Strathclyde University.

James was educated at Eton College and at Brasenose College, Oxford, and is a direct contemporary of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. His career in journalism began at The Independent, a liberal broadsheet newspaper that shook up the old Fleet St establishment when it launched in the 1980s, and for which he still writes. At the age of 26 he was appointed Features Editor of The European, Robert Maxwell's innovative but ultimately ill-fated foreign news journal; he subsequently became a freelance foreign correspondent, covering regions as diverse as Europe, the Caribbean, North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

From 1999 to 2001 he lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he worked as press spokesman for the Office of the High Representative, the body charged with implementing the Dayton, Ohio Peace Accord that ended the Yugoslav civil war in 1995. From 2001 to 2003 he worked for the London-based corporate intelligence agency, Hakluyt. He subsequently returned to journalism, and to resource issues: specifically, water. Sana’a, the ancient capital, is on course to become the first major city in modern times to ‘fail’ through lack of water – with security consequences not just for the Arab region but for the world. By way of preparation, in 2013 he completed a Master’s degree in Geo-environmental Engineering and Hydrogeology at Strathclyde University.

James was educated at Eton College and at Brasenose College, Oxford, and is a direct contemporary of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. His career in journalism began at The Independent, a liberal broadsheet newspaper that shook up the old Fleet St establishment when it launched in the 1980s, and for which he still writes. At the age of 26 he was appointed Features Editor of The European, Robert Maxwell's innovative but ultimately ill-fated foreign news journal; he subsequently became a freelance foreign correspondent, covering regions as diverse as Europe, the Caribbean, North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

From 1999 to 2001 he lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he worked as press spokesman for the Office of the High Representative, the body charged with implementing the Dayton, Ohio Peace Accord that ended the Yugoslav civil war in 1995. From 2001 to 2003 he worked for the London-based corporate intelligence agency, Hakluyt. He subsequently returned to journalism, and to writing books.

His first book, Kandahar Cockney (2004), told the story of his Pashtun fixer-interpreter whom he helped gain political asylum in London, and was a Radio 4 Book of the Week. A Million Bullets (2008), an account of the Nato campaign in southern Afghanistan, was the British Army's Military Book of the Year, and was designated as required reading for trainee officers. Taliban – Unknown Enemy (2010), set out the argument for a negotiated settlement with the insurgents. The World’s Most Dangerous Place – Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia (2013) was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, for the Paddy Power Political Book Awards International Affairs Book of the Year, and for a second time, the Military Book of the Year award.

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