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History's People: Personalities And The Past

History's People: Personalities And The Past 1

Personalities and the Past

by Margaret MacMillan
Publication Date: 23/09/2015
3/5 Rating 1 Reviews
In this year's highly anticipated Massey Lectures, internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of the memorable figures of the past, women and men, who have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. The actions of Hitler, Stalin and Thatcher had epic, resounding consequences, but there are other ways to shape the course of history- those like Samuel de Champlain, the dreamers, explorers or adventurers who stand out in history for who they were as much as for what they did; or observers like Michel de Montaigne, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life for us. History's People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times, and the transformative moments that have shaped the world.
Literary essays
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Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacMillan is Emeritus Professor of International History, University of Oxford and Professor of History, University of Toronto.

She is the author of Women and the Raj and the international bestsellers Nixon in China and Peacemakers, which won the 2002 Samuel Johnson Prize, and The War that Ended Peace, The Uses and Abuses of History and History's People, all published by Profile.

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3 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • An exceptional read

    by on

    “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.
    3.5 stars