History's People

History's People

Personalities and the Past

Book - 2015
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"In this year's highly anticipated Massey Lectures, internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of the great figures of the past, women and men, who have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times--and sometimes with huge consequences, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. She also acknowledges people such as Richard Nixon and George W. Bush who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are those like Samuel de Champlain, the dreamers, explorers, or adventurers who stand out in history for who they were as much as for what they did. Finally, there are the observers, such as Michel de Montaigne, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life for us. History's People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times, and the transformative moments that have shaped the world today."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto :, House of Anansi Press,, 2015
ISBN: 9781487000059
Characteristics: 389 pages ; 22 cm


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Jun 12, 2017

History’s People is adapted from lectures that Margaret Macmillan gave as part of the Massey Series in 2015. This likely explains why the content is a little thinner than in some of her other work (notably Paris 1919 and The War that Ended Peace). That said, MacMillan is an eminently readable historian.

The subject of her lectures is the role that extraordinary individuals can play in shaping their times – and in some cases the very flow of history. She notes that “if history is a feast, the savour comes from its people.” Her fascination with the individual is evident in her deeper works as she describes in various places the personalities whose hands were on the levers of history (My favourite is a description of Lord Balfour: “his smile was like moonlight on a tombstone) or the role that chance plays in events large and small. If the Archduke’s chauffeur had not taken a wrong turn, would Gavrilo Princip have had a second chance to assassinate him? What would have happened if Hitler had died in the trenches of World War I or if Churchill had been fatally injured when he was struck by a car in New York in 1931 or if Stalin had died on the operating table in 1921 when his appendix was removed.

History may indeed be a great flowing river but its course may be altered by circumstance and by the man or woman who is necessary but not sufficient.

Oct 31, 2016

Fascinating insight into little known (to me) personalities of history. I gained more respect for McKenzie King and his times. I also am plowing my way through her bibliography to find out more about some of the lesser known figures -- especially women.

Feb 16, 2016

My most recent read was ‘History’s People’. I found it enjoyable and informative. I consider myself to be a poor reader so I need to be careful as to how I invest my time. Also, it is important that anything I read be well written. ‘History’s People’ was a good investment of my time. I will be loaning my copy to my friends.

Sep 22, 2015

In his 'Notebook' column in the "National Post" newspaper of September 22, 2015, Robert Fulford wrote: "'History's People' urges us to see the past in another way. [Author Margaret] MacMillan has provided us with a brilliantly guided tour through a dramatic and emotionally penetrating account of the human beings , who by accident or design (and often through the luck of good timing) created the world we live in. She encourages us to see the human qualities, the frailties and passion of men and women who made history. ... MacMillan ... speaks in confident tones to everyone who reads. She [reveals the] excitements and pleasures [in] history." MacMillan provides references and an index.


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