Written by Margaret MacMillan
Publication Date August 06, 2016
Part of the CBC Massey Lectures Series
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.
<p>MARGARET MACMILLAN is the author of the international bestsellers <em>The War that Ended Peace, Nixon in China</em> and <em>Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World</em>, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize. She is also the author of <em>The Uses and Abuses of History</em>. The past provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto, she is now the warden of St. Antony’s College and a professor of international history at Oxford University and a professor of history at the University of Toronto.</p>
<p><strong>Praise for Margaret MacMillan and History’s People:<br/>#1 National Bestseller</strong></p> <p>“MacMillan draws on an astonishing well of scholarship . . . The house of history is vast, and as the Massey Lectures come to a close, two voices sound a very different, and more urgent, note: the observers Harry Kessler, born in 1868, the wealthy son of a German banker, and Viktor Klemperer, born in 1881, a German-Jewish professor in Dresden. Through their diaries, Kessler and Klemperer attempt to keep hold of their particular way of observing and thinking, which is to say, their souls. MacMillan powerfully recreates the era; she brings to life not simply their personalities, but their personhood.” — <em>Globe and Mail</em></p> <p>“[MacMillan] is one of those rare scholars who can write for a larger audience without becoming bogged down in academic jargon. In her latest book, MacMillan shows this talent again in five absorbing lectures about a wide range of historical actors — from Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to Samuel Champlain and Elizabeth Simcoe — offering insight into their personal motivations and historical significance . . . With the federal election campaign underway, the party leaders could help themselves by heeding MacMillan’s words of wisdom.” — <em>National Post</em></p> <p>“Avoiding arid timelines, MacMillan, an Oxford professor, instead provides intimate human encounters. She seems to love sifting through the revealing details. ‘I want to gossip,’ she confesses — and so do we.” — <em>New York Times Book Review</em></p> <p>“It’s this ability to blend the macro and the micro, the big abstractions with the telling personal detail, that MacMillan brought to perfection in her book Peacemakers, which won the Samuel Johnson prize in 2002 . . . MacMillan expands and further illustrates her belief that you can’t understand the past simply be tracing out its blind drivers — economics, ideology, religion. You’ve got to pay attention to the people on the ground, too, to the flesh-and-blood individuals who scurried around trying to make sense of it all . . . By the end of this exhilarating book, you are left wondering whether it is those scholars insisting on an abstracted, impersonal approach to the past who are most at risk of missing the point.” — <em>Guardian</em></p> <p>“MacMillan deftly and engagingly shows that history is a process of capturing the minutiae of life as much as time’s epic strokes.”— <em>Publishers Weekly</em> (Starred Review)</p> <p>“A concise, educational overview of some of the men and women who have carved out spots in the annals of history and why they should be remembered. Fans of the author are in for another treat.” — <em>Kirkus Review</em></p> <p>“Margaret MacMillan rightly is a darling of Canadian letters, an acclaimed historian of international stature, a superb writer and author of several award-winning bestsellers. Her talents and intellect are so formidable she can do no professional wrong — if she writes something it is worth reading, no question. This has been true of everything she has turned her mind to, and it is true of her latest work, History's People . . . the stories — in the end is what is so richly rewarding about reading History's People. If the personal stories command MacMillan's interest, it goes without saying that they will command the attention of her readers, too.” — <em>Winnipeg Free Press</em></p> <p>“Margaret MacMillan doesn’t just document the past; she brings it to life.” — <em>Readers Digest</em></p> <p>“Wonderful . . . <em>History’s People</em> urges us to see the past in another way. 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 passions of men and women who make history . . . Many readers of MacMillan’s book will want to give a copy to young people whose brains have been deadened by textbooks.” — Robert Fulford, <em>National Post</em></p> <p>“This book is an inspiring one, and the lives of the people included have lessons for all of us.” — <em>Victoria Times Colonist</em></p> <p>“Through this series of lectures, MacMillan demonstrates in rich and provocative detail, how history is an important tool for understanding our own world - as well as the world of others.” — The History Education Network</p> <p><strong>Praise for Margaret MacMillan and <em>The War that Ended Peace</em>:<br/> NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY<br/> <em>New York Times Book Review <br/> The Economist <br/> Christian Science Monitor<br/> Bloomberg Businessweek<br/> Globe and Mail</em></strong></p> <p>“<em>The War that Ended Peace</em> tells the story of how intelligent, well-meaning leaders guided their nations into catastrophe. These epic events, brilliantly described by one of our era’s most talented historians, warn of the dangers that arise when we fail to anticipate the consequences of our actions. Immersed in intrigue, enlivened by fascinating stories, and made compelling by the author’s own insights, this is one of the finest books I have read on the causes of World War I.” — Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State</p> <p>“Once again, Margaret MacMillan proves herself not just a masterly historian but a brilliant storyteller. She brings to life the personalities whose decisions, rivalries, ambitions, and fantasies led Europe to ‘lay waste to itself’ and triggered decades of global conflict. Hers is a cautionary tale of follies a century in the past that seem all too familiar today.” — Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution</p> <p>“<em>The War That Ended Peace</em> is a masterful explanation of the complex forces that brought the Edwardian world crashing down. Utterly riveting, deeply moving, and impeccably researched, MacMillan’s latest opus will become the definitive account of old Europe’s final years.” — Amanda Foreman, author of <em>A World on Fire</em></p> <p>“That MacMillan’s research is both thorough and of the utmost quality goes without saying; however, the relevant lessons she draws out of the ‘puzzle’ that precipitated the Great War bear repeating again and again. Above all she reminds us that, even in an increasingly interconnected world, nothing is inevitable and there are always choices to be made that can lead us to achieve conflict prevention.” — Lieutenant-General The Honourable Romeo A. Dallaire</p> <p>“Margaret MacMillan . . . is that wonderful combination — an academic and scholar who writes well, with a marvelous clarity of thought. Her pen portraits of the chief players are both enjoyable and illuminating. Among the cascade of books arriving for the anniversary, this work truly stands out.” — Antony Beevor, author of <em>The Second World War</em></p> <p>“Few historians have better credentials to write about the origins of the First World War than the Oxford scholar Margaret MacMillan . . . with its lovely elegant style, keen eye for human foibles, and impeccable attention to detail, this is one of the most enjoyably readable books of the year . . . MacMillan depicts a world of neurotically anxious empires and dangerously insecure alliances, a restless landscape in which diplomacy’s tectonic plates never stay still for a moment.” — Dominic Sandbrook, <em>Sunday Times</em></p> <p><strong>Praise for Margaret MacMillan and <em>Paris 1919</em>:<br/>International Bestseller<br/>Winner, Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction<br/>Winner, Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction<br/>Finalist, Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction<br/><em>New York Times</em> Editors’ Choice<br/>Winner, PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize<br/>Winner, Duff Cooper Prize<br/>Silver Medalist, Arthur Ross Book Award of the Council on Foreign Relations<br/>Finalist, Robert F. Kennedy Book Award</strong></p> <p>“The history of the 1919 Paris peace talks following World War I is a blueprint of the political and social upheavals bedevilling the planet now. . . . A wealth of colorful detail and a concentration on the strange characters of many of these statesmen were keep [MacMillan’s] narrative lively.” — <em>New York Times Book Review</em></p> <p>“MacMillan’s book reminds us of the main lesson learned at such a high cost in Paris in 1919: Peace is not something that can be imposed at the conference table. It can grow only from the hearts of people.” — <em>Los Angeles Times</em></p> <p>“Beautifully written, full of judgment and wisdom, <em>Paris 1919</em> is a pleasure to read and vibrates with the passions of the early twentieth century and of ours.” — <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em></p> <p>“MacMillan is a superb writer who can bring history to life.” — Philadelphia Inquirer</p> <p>“For anyone interested in knowing how historic mistakes can morph into later historic problems, this brilliant book is a must-read.” — <em>Chicago Tribune</em></p>