History's People: Personalities and the Past

History's People: Personalities and the Past

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 1487001371

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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“Putting the World to Rights.” She won again in 1987 (although the party lost twenty-one seats) and set to work with renewed determination and vigour — and a conviction of her own rightness. One of her targets was education, which she had long felt was dominated by left-wing teachers’ unions which promoted a wishy-washy and largely useless curriculum. History, she liked to say, should be about facts and not what she dismissed as trends, and it should focus on Britain and not the rest of the

inevitable inconvenience of an infant colony.” Elizabeth Simcoe was a considerable heiress, the chatelaine of a large and comfortable house in the west of England, and already at twenty-five the mother of six children. When she was only sixteen, she had fallen in love with and married the much older Colonel John Graves Simcoe. She was, even at that age, strong-willed. Her husband had fought the Americans when the Thirteen Colonies rebelled, and he came out of that experience more committed a

coping with illness or homesickness, managing their households, or amusing themselves. India, the jewel in the crown of the empire, presented all that and more. It was so big, so old, so complicated with all its different peoples and religions. The British presence there went back to the reign of the first Elizabeth. What had started out as a trading company had turned over the centuries into a government, the Raj, controlling more and more of the subcontinent. Until the nineteenth century,

arranged a marriage for him, but he was unenthusiastic about his bride. Every month or so, his mother, he complained, “drove me to her with all the severity of a quartermaster.” Part of the trouble may have been that he had fallen madly in love with a boy. “I made myself miserable over him.” Babur wrote him poetry, but when he met the object of his passion, “I was so bashful that I could not look him in the face, much less converse freely with him.” In his later years Babur had several wives

always important to him — but because he felt that through new forms of art, new societies could be built. Kessler’s great opportunity came when he was asked to advise the duchy of Weimar on regenerating its artistic life. With the modernist Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, he helped to found a new school of arts and crafts which would become the forerunner of the highly influential Bauhaus school of the 1920s and 1930s. Kessler himself took on the directorship of the local art museum and

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