History's People

History's People

Personalities and the Past

eBook - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
House Of Anansi

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.

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.

Perseus Publishing
The past is a great canvas and across it sweep the currents that move human affairs. Economic changes such as industrialization or capitalism, scientific and technological discoveries such as steam power or computers, or ideas such as liberalism or fascism, are the engines of history. Yet in every era individuals stand out from the crowds. Internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own selection of those historical figures, women and men, who have fascinated her and explains the reasons why.

She looks at the powerful, hereditary rulers, elected leaders, or generals, whose personalities and decisions made a difference in history, as well the writers, explorers, or thinkers whose voices speak to us across the centuries and whose impact may be more muted. She situates her subjects in their times and explains where they reflected prevailing values and where, like Luther or Marx, they challenged and changed them. Some, like Hitler, Mao, or Stalin, took a particular current in their own times and rode it to power with huge consequences. Using examples drawn from several centuries she examines specific characteristics and emotions, including curiosity, daring, ambition, vision, stubbornness, and integrity, showing how these qualities made a difference.

Publisher: Toronto : Anansi Press, 2015
ISBN: 9781487000073
Branch Call Number: E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

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.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at Northern Indiana Database Cluster

To Top