History’s People: Personalities and the Past

Margaret MacMillan. House of Anansi (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4870-0005-9
In this erudite analysis of major historical figures, MacMillan (Paris 1919) spotlights individuals who have either made history or documented it. Each chapter focuses on one of five qualities: persuasion, hubris, daring, curiosity, and observational power. The first three chapters present those who have “left their mark on history,” while the last two showcase history’s recorders, who shared a “refreshing freedom from the prejudices and judgments of their own times.” MacMillan’s more surprising choices are her most interesting. While Hitler and Stalin are obvious examples of political hubris, Woodrow Wilson is an idiosyncratic—and more fascinating—choice. Nixon, hardly the most the charismatic of American presidents, is convincingly portrayed as a leader of considerable daring in his outreach to Mao’s China. MacMillan’s fascination with history’s more curious observers builds the book’s strongest chapters. Through describing the lives of people such as Victor Klemperer, a German Jewish academic who survived and documented life in Nazi Germany, or Count Harry Kessler, one of the great record keepers of European life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, MacMillan deftly and engagingly shows that history is a process of capturing the minutiae of life as much as time’s epic strokes. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/2015
Release date: 10/13/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4870-0137-7
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-1-4870-0006-6
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