Read History's People: Personalities and the Past by Margaret MacMillan Online


Part of the CBC Massey Lectures SeriesIn 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, aPart of the CBC Massey Lectures SeriesIn 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....

Title : History's People: Personalities and the Past
Author :
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ISBN : 9781487000059
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

History's People: Personalities and the Past Reviews

  • Marianne
    2019-05-10 03:10

    “Our understanding and enjoyment of the past would be impoverished without its individuals, even though we know history’s currents – its underlying forces and shifts, whether of technology or political structures or social values – must never be ignored”History’s People: Personalities and the Past is the eleventh book by Canadian author and historian, Margaret MacMillan, and comprises the 2015 Massey Lectures. As well as a general commentary on the people that make and record history, MacMillan focusses on certain individuals, examining their role in history. Readers may be intrigued to find that MacMillan groups together Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Stalin and Hitler under a common banner, analysing their leadership successes and failures.MacMillan looks at people who took advantage of favourable circumstances, people who made their own beneficial circumstances, people with a knack for judging when the time was right, people who achieved by virtue of believing in themselves and their cause, and people who recorded events around them. Leaders, pioneers, explorers, entrepreneurs and meticulous diarists all feature. MacMillan tells us: “…we should never forget that the people of the past were as human as we are….we recognize in the people of the past familiar characteristics; they too had ambitions and fears, loves and hates…” and also that “Women have been some of the great adventurers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, perhaps because they were tempered and toughened by overcoming the obstacles society placed in the way of their sex”In her final chapter, we are told: “It is the interplay between individuals and their worlds that makes history and brings it to life for those of us in the present”. People who have an interest in modern history will enjoy this outstanding and very comprehensive collection of lectures. MacMillan includes a 17-page index and, for readers whose interest is piqued by a particular character, an 18-page section on sources and further reading. An exceptional read.3.5 ★s

  • Bibi
    2019-04-24 23:57

    In this book, MacMillan is sharing history with us in a unique way. At first, I thought she will dedicate sections of the book to the various personalities she chose to feature in the book. Instead, once I opened the book, I realized that she has assigned them to little boxes labelled Hubris, Daring, Curiosity, Observers and Persuasion & the Art of Leadership.I did not find the first part engrossing and that is because I already have some knowledge about FDR, Nixon, Hitler, Stalin, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill etc. but it is still interesting how she distilled their personalities. There is good representation of Canada through the likes of Mackenzie King and Samuel de Champlain. Throughout the book, MacMillan refers to the possibility how different the world may have turned out or differently history may have been written. There is much musing of what if or what it would be if there was no such and such.Like MacMillan, I too "like the details of long-gone people: what they wore or ate, who they loved and hated". I am always keen to read about what drives people; what made some, incredible leaders and others, despicable dictators. I enjoyed reading of the powerful; it is like a kind of celebrity gossip from years gone by and it was this curiosity that led me to her book.I particularly like the latter part of the book which featured some incredible women who I knew little of. They include:• Edith Durham and her role for an independent Albania• Gertrude Bell aka the Desert Queen and her role in the formation of Iraq• Mrs Simcoe whose husband helped to establish what is now Toronto.• Fanny Parkes and her memoirs which provided insights of the Raj period in India.It is interesting that she was able to piece together much of history by reading the records they left behind - memoirs, diaries, letters. As she indicated: "Without their records, our knowledge of the past would be so much poorer". I know that I would share the same glee as this author when she confessed: "there is always something pleasurable in doing what one ought not to do in ordinary life, and that is read the private letters and diaries of others all in the name of research". I thank the author for doing all the hard work and for publishing her book which has a great section at the end for further readings on anyone or any event which may pique the readers' interest. This book is not a who dunnit or drama or romance. It is history distilled through personalities so not everyone may like it but I did (4 stars).

  • Daniel Kukwa
    2019-05-14 01:54

    A book that aligns very closely to my own views on the role of the individual in history. Especially noteworthy are the passages on women whose stories have been lost to history; Margaret MacMillan manages to bring them deservedly to light once again. An easy, informative, flowing read that leaves the reader in a contemplative mood.

  • Robert Meyro
    2019-05-23 21:01

    A disappointing read followingThe War That Ended Peace , another book of Margaret MacMillan's.Although the intention of the book was likely to be an enjoyable read with some interesting anecdotes here and there, I found there to be little insight into any of the historical figures covered. Might as well have just looked them up on Wikipedia.

  • Brooke
    2019-05-19 21:14

    I enjoyed reading this book as it introduces new historic figures for me to explore. Some of the people mentioned I have studied many times in numerous classes but others I had never heard of and I was intrigued by there stories. The author inserts a lot of her own opinions into the book. Normally this didn’t bother me, but in some ways I would have liked to form more of my own opinion on the stories she shared. My only dislike is the authors positive view on how Canada became a country— it wasn’t a “peaceable evolution”. She makes it seem like the indigenous peoples, French, and British all had a fun time getting along.

  • Mike Apps
    2019-05-13 20:44

    Well written but I couldn't help but feel it lacked the focus or detail to be considered an overly satisfying or informative read.

  • Aban (Aby)
    2019-05-01 02:59

    Margaret MacMillan brings history to life in this very readable and absorbing book. She explores the qualities, and gives examples, of outstanding leaders, of risk takers, of those whose curiosity drives them to explore new worlds, and of those who quietly observe all that is going on around them. The historical figures she describes come from every part of the world and from the sixteenth century to the present age. Some are world renowned figures, others less well known, and some relatively obscure. I found fascinating examples in every category, and learned interesting new facts:- the man who figured out the route to Mount Everest was a young Canadain- a woman, Ada Lovelace, created the first software in history in the 1830s- that the bankers in the crash of 2008 were part of a group of men able to see opportunities, take risks, and who came to believe that could not lose!I was fascinated by MacMillan's account of an unknown (to me) risk taker, Dr. Barry Marshall. He is an Australian who came to believe that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria. Since he could not raise the money for research, he decided to experiment on himself ( much to his wife's fury!)- I could go on and on. Read the book for your self and explore the remarkable personalities who observed and/or transformed our world throughout the ages.MacMillan also provides the names and authors of of some of her favourite books, as well as a bibliography, for us to explore. I have made a note of several books to read."History's Peolpe" is worth reading; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Peter Mendrela
    2019-05-15 20:59

    “If history is…a feast”, as Margaret MacMillan puts it, “the savour comes from its people”. Indeed, MacMillan’s “People” should be a required “dish” for anyone interested in the study of history not only because of the fascinating personalities she discusses, but because of the way she does it. In short, her writing is lucid, engaging, and scholarly without being elitist or conceding. Much ink has been spilt discussing Bismarck, FDR, Hitler, Stalin or Thatcher, but rarely has reading about them been so much…fun (this adjective, of course, is not a judgment about their actions). Moreover, apart from these historical giants which she categorizes by their personality traits, Macmillan adds a wonderful homage to the less know figures in Canadian history, intrepid women explorers, and a concluding tribute to select diary keepers who make the study of history not only more interesting, but often possible.One final note. No, MacMillan does not deny the importance of larger political, economic, or social forces which, as it were, “make” history, but she suggests that it is the specific personalities of the aforementioned people that resulted in their seizing power and inflicting such powerful historical shifts.This is history par excellence from an excellent historian and a writer.

  • Nancy
    2019-05-16 02:44

    Margaret MacMillan is one of my favourite authors and I find her books very interesting and readable. This book is her recent Massey Lectures in book form and it looks at history from the perspective of historical figures who have contributed to its telling, subtitled "Personalities and the Past". Each chapter represents a certain common quality or role which has been shown by the characters she chooses. The qualities include persuasion and the art of leadership, hubris, curiousity, daring, and the last chapter is "observers", which was the important role played here. I was especially struck by the importance of "observers" in history as those who have either written extensively about their experiences which provide us with a record of the times or protected manuscripts or important documents which could otherwise have been destroyed, thereby providing us with important clues about the times. There is a wide range of historical periods represented - Mrs. Simcoe, wife of John Graves Simcoe, governor of Upper Canada, Edith Durham who championed the causes of Albania, Margaret Thatcher, Stalin and Hitler, from this century, several of the adventurous women from the Raj period, etc. Many of the characters were unfamiliar to me and I plan to do further research on their contributions. It was a compelling read and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  • Margaret
    2019-05-18 23:00

    3.5 starsI did enjoy this book for what it is--a published record of a series of lectures presented as part of the CBC's Massey Lectures. If you read each chapter as a separate entity, it makes a bit more sense, but trying to connect them together to create a seamless narrative is futile. This is my first book by MacMillan. I did quite enjoy her ability to make historical figures come alive on the page and put them into the historical context in which they lived. For the most part the individual portraits are short and interesting glimpses into the lives of some famous, infamous, and relatively unknown individuals who pique MacMillan's interest. I would definitely like to try one of MacMillan's other books that focuses on a more comprehensive view of an historical time period or event.All in all, I found this to be an interesting introduction to some time periods and people that I would like to know more about. Toward that end, MacMillan provides a list of some suggested additional reading which has already added to my "to read" list.

  • Text Publishing
    2019-05-03 19:12

    Hitler, Stalin, Thatcher, Woodrow Wilson, Otto von Bismarck...In History's People, Margaret MacMillan investigates how individuals have shaped the world through particular personality traits: persuasion and the art of leadership, hubris, daring, curiosity and observers. MacMillan's fascinating discussion of the various and varied influential personalities throughout history is the subject of this year’s Massey Lectures—an annual Canadian lecture series given each year by a different scholar of note. Past deliverers of this series include some varied and influential personalities as well: Martin Luther King Jr, Doris Lessing, Noam Chomsky, Ronald Wright (A Short History of Progress) and Margaret Atwood.‘MacMillan is a superb writer who can bring history to life.’ Philadelphia Inquirer‘Stylish, intelligent, insightful, History’s People cements MacMillan’s reputation for both eminence and elegance.’ Clare Wright

  • Andrea Engle
    2019-05-16 19:05

    A delightful potpourri of individuals from history ... from movers and shakers, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to humble observers, such as Victor Klemperer, MacMillan shows us how each person shapes the history of his or her world and impacts the historical record ... leading to an appreciation of the importance of each individual ... consists of the 2015 Massey Lectures in book format ...

  • Cait
    2019-05-19 00:44

    I really liked this book. I learned more about some of the heavy hitters in history, and I also learned about some people that I've never heard about or knew very little about. It was interesting to see how people make history and how the situations make the people. Well worth the read.

  • Ottawan
    2019-05-17 23:45

    Interesting and very readable. The relatively short people backgrounds offered encourage further reading on those of most interest.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-22 21:44

    Review TK.

  • Nick
    2019-05-20 01:11

    The book is very insightful although it only gives a brief summary of each recipient. It's a good book to read if you are looking for more books to pursue.

  • Zaid
    2019-05-02 02:00

    This book is split into different categories: Hubris, Daring, Curiosity, Observers and Persuasion & the Art of Leadership.Having only learned that this book is a compilation of a series of lectures after reading it, it makes a lot more sense how irrelevant each chapter seems to the next. On the one hand, I appreciated the insight offered into the personalities of history analysed, such as Champlain, Woodrow Wilson, Thatcher, Nixon, Babur. There are only small glimpses into their lives, but I found their interactions intriguing and learned a lot from how they have shaped today. I also appreciated the counterfactual approach, where MacMillan asks "What if that person did not exist?" or "What if that person wasn't curious?" It makes us remember that each of these personalities acted as a catalyst to huge changes to the modern world. On the other hand, I feel that some of the characters selected in this book where based on the mere fact that they were an influential white person in a foreign land , giving the impression of whitewashing history. Examples might be Gertrude Bell or Edith Durham. No doubt these personalities worked tirelessly in their lives, yet I feel a personality from that country during that time period might have been more appropriate. As a whole, the book provides great insight into individual personalities and provokes you to read more about them. Some of the people chosen were of great interest, but others appeared more irrelevant or boring.

  • Susan
    2019-05-04 00:10

    This book is based on the Massey Lectures that Margaret MacMillan delivered in 2015, and I would have enjoyed listening to them immensely. However, as a book it doesn’t work for me. There is political history, social history, and economic history, but this is something new. The history of personalities perhaps? Whatever it is, I don’t like it. Nevertheless, I plodded along because it was for my book club.And then I read this, on page 139, in the chapter called Hubris: “Once in power Hitler moved quickly to eliminate the opposition and bring the German state and German society under control. A month after he had been appointed, a convenient fire in the German parliament, the Reichstag, enabled him to gain the right to rule by decree.” Why would a fire enable him to rule by decree? No explanation is offered. If I had heard those words spoken in a lecture hall, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the “hole,” but it was glaring in book format.I’m a fan of Margaret MacMillan but I simply wasn’t enjoying this book, and decided not to finish. While I loved the Canadian references, I found this book too general and sweeping in nature, and I will not find it memorable in the long run. I didn’t learn anything from it, nor will it be valuable as a reference book.

  • Casey
    2019-05-08 00:00

    Having so thoroughly enjoyed Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace, I found this to be rather disappointing. This is less a book about history and more a book about Margaret MacMillan. She wants us to know that she knows lots of stuff about lots of stuff. "Fanny Parkes's memoirs, which were published in 1850, were out of print until the 1970s, and she was known only to a handful of people, such as myself, who researched the British in India." She also wants us to know she has thoughts and opinions about stuff. And that opens quite a window. Of Ada Lovelace, "Although she too married, to a man who became the Earl of Lovelace, she managed somehow to combine being a wife and mother with using her mind." Maybe one day she'll write a book exploring this incredible mystery.If you want good history, by all means read MacMillan's excellent 1919 and War. But for a few nuggets, this effort is not much worth your time.

  • Sonstepaul
    2019-05-15 03:04

    While MacMillan starts this book with a few essays on typical historical figures, heavily favouring those from the 20th Century—some such as Nixon and Woodrow Wilson she herself has written more about elsewhere—in the back half we really see who this book is about. Important but overlooked figures, curious and important women, and lastly the recorders of history round out this collection.As always, MacMillan’s style is easy to fall into—something to say for an expansive historical writer—and when she treats her opinion as fact there is so much research on her part supporting that opinion, the reader can easily fall in step.

  • Bashara
    2019-05-14 22:05

    Unfortunately I had to stop reading it halfway. It's a thoughtful book, but even with her themes for the chapters, the specific people she mentions seems quite randomly selected. Of course this is more a micro rather than macro-scaled historical analysis, but the details aren't intriguing enough for someone with little knowledge of the people and times she is mentioning to be excited by. Maybe I'll pick it up again someday, but most likely not.

  • Lorraine
    2019-05-12 21:08

    The book is written not as a history book covering a particular period but on interesting people who made history, Ms MacMillan gives just enough to get you interested but not enough to be dull. Lots of interesting facts are given that would lead to further investigation if that was your desire. This book certainly covers some people that are very relevant but I had never been taught to appreciate. Thanks for tbe eye opener!

  • George Hodgson
    2019-05-12 19:58

    A very easy read. Meticulous research lays bare a treasure trove of facts probably never brought to light before. MacMillan brings to life the risk takers, the true leaders, the hubris sufferers and the observers. It gives one pause when looking at the political leaders of today. Fantastic!

  • Megan
    2019-04-24 21:44

    Always enjoy the CBC Massey lecture books. An interesting take on the difference ways that individuals impact history.

  • Caitlin
    2019-04-24 00:08

    a good collection of stories about important people in history. Canadian focused, but very interesting and informative. An easy read

  • Rhys
    2019-05-03 00:00

    An uncritical series of vignettes of individuals in history. It was okay.

  • Rob & Liz
    2019-04-25 19:46

    Having been to one of the Massey Lectures, I wanted to read further and this book did not disappoint.

  • Vontel
    2019-04-27 22:59

    Book club selection for March. I started this book when it first came out, and didn't get back to it till now. Up to p 115, Margaret Thatcher, think I got this far last time.. I did get stalled again for some time. Prior to book club a week ago, I flipped to the last couple of chapters to get more of her overview and summary of the importance and vulnerabilities of our knowledge and uses of history as it is known to us. Interesting discussions in the group, and particularly an appreciation of a Canadian perspective and inclusion of different Canadian voices in the book. I subsequently did complete reading the entire book, often re-reading portions. Excellent resources and partial bibliography at the end of the book, for further exploration at other times.

  • Mary Lou
    2019-05-10 02:00

    A chatty look at some of history’s stories. I heard parts of this on the CBC Massey Lectures and went looking for the book to fill in the blanks. It’s packed with interesting people from the movers and shakers who shaped history to the ordinary people who lived through and observed the moving and the shaking. The book, as the lectures, is organized into five sections: persuasion and the art of leadership, hubris, daring, curiosity, and observers. All sections held my interest - how could it fail to be held when figures like Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Adolf Hitler, and Josef Stalin are all dealt with under the heading of “Hubris”? But the final section, “Observers” was captivating. MacMillan begins it with a lament about diaries and writings lost - among them Jane Austen’s letters, Byron’s final work; a mention of diaries that were supposed to be destroyed but were kept - Mackenzie Kings’s; and acclaim for records surreptitiously made and kept - transcripts kept by an interpreter of the 1919 discussions in Paris among Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Orlando. Then she zeroes in on several fascinating diarists. I knew little about Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India - probably the last ruler to consider Kabul “his lucky piece”. Like the rest of the people in this chapter, he’s fascinating because he is known through his own words, but it’s rare for someone who wielded so much power to be so personally and politically frank in his writings. He was keenly observant of everything from manners to plants. I was also unfamiliar with Viktor Klemperer, a German Jew, a professor of Romantic languages, who kept a diary throughout the 1930’s and right through to the end of WWII. Miraculously, both he and his diary survived, and it’s an incredible accounting of the restrictions and horrors of life for a Jew in Nazi Germany. So - history with a personal touch - accessible, readable, informative.

  • Vinay Chillara
    2019-04-30 23:14

    - Interesting segmentation; the author chose to group individuals not according to geography or time, but certain common features of their personalities.- Clear prose; author's propensity to gossip helps in understanding people beyond their better known deeds.- I particularly like: the distinction the author draws between biographers and historians, that the book includes not just the very famous (Hitler, Stalin, Thatcher, etc.) but also the lesser known, the author's special mention of observers.- A good read for amateur historians.