History's People: Personalities and the Past

History's People: Personalities and the Past

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 1487001371

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In History’s People internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life.

History’s People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times.

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people that geography no longer kept them as safe as it once had; advances in air power meant that the oceans were no longer a secure barrier, and long-range bombers would sooner or later be able to reach the continent from Europe or the Far East. If he roused too vehement a response, he artfully backtracked. In a famous 1937 speech in Chicago, home to some of the most diehard isolationists, he warned against the aggressive nations who were threatening the peace of the world and committing

may we bring harmony.” Irony, like humour, was not something she did. Her first years as prime minister were not easy ones. To be sure, the opposition was badly divided, and in 1981 a dissident group split from the Labour Party to form a new Social Democratic Party. Yet the unions were still challenging the government, the British economy went from bad to worse, and her own party was unsure of what to make of her. A group of influential Tories, some within her cabinet, strongly opposed

in Vienna before the First World War, had picked up and embraced the racist and Social Darwinist ideas floating around Europe at the time. The belief that the human race could be divided into separate species of varying qualities, and that the different races or nations were condemned by nature to struggle against each other for survival, became a deep-rooted conviction. For Hitler, the German race was at the top of the evolutionary tree and ought to be able to impose its will on lesser peoples.

humans whose values and practices were as worthy of respect as her own. They held lengthy councils, she reported: “I have seen some translation of speeches full of well-expressed fine sentiments, & marking their reliance on the Great Spirit.” Many of the Indians reminded her of the ancient Greeks and Romans and looked “like figures painted by the Old Masters.” She found the Ojibway in particular very handsome, “& have a superior air to any I have seen.” Joseph Brant, the distinguished Iroquois

small world, of the view from below. As the Nazis stamped out all opposition, it became increasingly dangerous to keep anything from a book to a drawing that could be interpreted as subversive or critical of the regime. The German secret police, the Gestapo, made unscheduled searches, and suspicious material or forbidden objects frequently meant death. “I shall go on writing,” Klemperer wrote in 1942. “That is my heroism. I will bear witness, precise witness!” His wife, who as an Aryan was

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