History’s People: Personalities and the Past (CBC Massey Lectures)
By: Margaret MacMillan
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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.
I’m a fan of the CBC Massey Lectures series, I think it’s a great series showcasing great thinkers, academics, and public figures discussing an array of topics that are interesting from an academic standpoint but also ties in well to our everyday lives and/or the world we live in. I’ve read and reviewed a few in the past (see shiny new tag; I’ve read 5 to date, but only reviewed 2 over here) but I was really excited when I heard last year that Margaret MacMillan was going to be the featured lecturer for the latest installment. You may have heard of Margaret MacMillan for her books like Paris 1919 and Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World. She’s a prominent historian too and was a lecturer when I was at UofT; alas I never got close to signing up for her class, it were pretty popular and hard to get into. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed reading Paris 1919 years ago and was looking forward to reading her take on prominent historical figures and their impact on history.