History's People: Personalities And The Past 1
Personalities and the Past
- Literary essays
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An exceptional read
“Our understanding and enjoyment of the past would be impoverished without its individuals, even though we know history’s currents – its underlying forces and shifts, whether of technology or political structures or social values – must never be ignored”
History’s People: Personalities and the Past is the eleventh book by Canadian author and historian, Margaret MacMillan, and comprises the 2015 Massey Lectures. As well as a general commentary on the people that make and record history, MacMillan focusses on certain individuals, examining their role in history. Readers may be intrigued to find that MacMillan groups together Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Stalin and Hitler under a common banner, analysing their leadership successes and failures.
MacMillan looks at people who took advantage of favourable circumstances, people who made their own beneficial circumstances, people with a knack for judging when the time was right, people who achieved by virtue of believing in themselves and their cause, and people who recorded events around them. Leaders, pioneers, explorers, entrepreneurs and meticulous diarists all feature.
MacMillan tells us: “…we should never forget that the people of the past were as human as we are….we recognize in the people of the past familiar characteristics; they too had ambitions and fears, loves and hates…” and also that “Women have been some of the great adventurers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, perhaps because they were tempered and toughened by overcoming the obstacles society placed in the way of their sex”
In her final chapter, we are told: “It is the interplay between individuals and their worlds that makes history and brings it to life for those of us in the present”. People who have an interest in modern history will enjoy this outstanding and very comprehensive collection of lectures. MacMillan includes a 17-page index and, for readers whose interest is piqued by a particular character, an 18-page section on sources and further reading. An exceptional read.