We may be sleepwalking towards world war, says respected Princeton historian

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/war-a-serious-threat-in-trump-and-brexit-world-historian-10770516">We may be sleepwalking towards world war, says respected Princeton historian</a>

We may now be sleepwalking our way towards a world war, according to a highly respected economic historian.

Harold James of Princeton University says the election of Donald Trump and the result of last year's EU referendum suggest the world's appetite for globalisation is collapsing - something that often prefigures more conflict.

In an interview with Sky News, Prof James said that countries had become locked in an information arms race similar to one that began in the years preceding World War One.

"I think [a world war] is absolutely a serious threat," he said.

"In that sense I think the aftermath of 1907 is as interesting as the 1930s.

"Because after 1907 the foreign ministries, defence ministries, intelligence agencies started to operationalise information - to think that information was essential to the control of military events - and there was a kind of arms race in terms of communications control.

"And we're seeing that kind of arms race at the moment I think."

In the wake of the financial crisis in 2008, Prof James warned of the potential for a sharp swing in public opinion away from open markets, borders and trade and towards protectionism, as happened in the 1930s and on previous occasions.

He said that the election of Mr Trump, who has pledged to raise tariffs and, if necessary, fight a trade war, suggested that was now taking place.

"We're swinging back again from an era when everyone thought globalisation was inevitable, to a period when people think there's really a big problem with globalisation," he said.

"And more and more governments, but also political movements, commentators, people on the street are thinking that globalisation just isn't working.

"I think the movement at the moment is particularly aimed against migration."