History’s People

I’ve always been interhstoryspeopleested in history although I am terrible for remembering dates and details. What I think I appreciate about history is the impact of people and events on situations.

Margaret MacMillan is a historian and professor of history at Oxford University.  In her book History’s People: Personalities and the PastMacMillan selects a number of figures from the past who stand out for her. The book is organized according to the attributes of those who have made and unmade our world looking specifically at qualities of leadership, hubris, persuasion, daring, curiosity and observation. MacMillan’s storytelling brings history to life and certainly helped me to realize the significance of the personalities of these historical figures and how, given another time or place or person, could have vastly impacted the world we live in today.  A few notable things I remember:

  • if Albert Einstein had not grasped the nature of the atom early in the 20th century could the Allies have developed the atomic bomb during WWII? CURIOSITY
  • if the Supreme Court decision on the 2000 vote count in Florida had gone differently George W. Bush would not have been president. As president, Al Gore would most certainly have resisted the temptation to invade Iraq. LEADERSHIP
  • Margaret Thatcher, Woodrow Wilson, Stalin and Hitler all had driving ambition and lived in times when changes were taking place that gave them opportunities. All four had a firm conviction that they were right in achieving the sort of society and world they wanted but were not prepared to compromise to achieve their ends. HUBRIS
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King exhibited a flair for conciliation and persuasion throughout the great depression and second world war to hold Canada together. PERSUASION

A thoroughly enjoyable and educational read!  I recommend it!

– Christine B.