The past is a great canvas and across it sweep the currents that move human affairs. Economic changes such as industrialization or capitalism, scientific and technological discoveries such as steam power or computers, or ideas such as liberalism or fascism, are the engines of history. Yet in every era individuals stand out from the crowds. Internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own selection of those historical figures, women and men, who have fascinated her and explains the reasons why.
She looks at the powerful, hereditary rulers, elected leaders, or generals, whose personalities and decisions made a difference in history, as well the writers, explorers, or thinkers whose voices speak to us across the centuries and whose impact may be more muted. She situates her subjects in their times and explains where they reflected prevailing values and where, like Luther or Marx, they challenged and changed them. Some, like Hitler, Mao, or Stalin, took a particular current in their own times and rode it to power with huge consequences. Using examples drawn from several centuries she examines specific characteristics and emotions, including curiosity, daring, ambition, vision, stubbornness, and integrity, showing how these qualities made a difference.
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