The modern era saw the emergence of individuals who had command over a terrifying array of instruments of control, persuasion and death. Whole societies were re-shaped and wars fought, often with a merciless contempt for the most basic norms. At the summit of these societies were leaders whose personalities had somehow given them the ability to do whatever they wished.
Ian Kershaw's new book is a compelling, lucid and challenging attempt to understand these rulers, whether operating on the widest stage (Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini) or with a more national impact (Tito, Franco). What was it about these leaders and the times they lived in that allowed them such untrammelled and murderous power? And what brought that era to an end? In a contrasting group of profiles (Churchill, de Gaulle, Adenauer, Gorbachev, Thatcher, Kohl) Kershaw uses his exceptional skills to think through how other, strikingly different figures wielded power.
Illuminating ... an insightful series of essays about 12 exceptional leaders who stood at the centre of Europe's 20th century. -- Philip Stephens - Financial Times
Few historians are better qualified to answer these questions than Ian Kershaw ... As always, he proves a splendid miniaturist, expertly sketching personalities and philosophies in a few coolly judged lines ... If Kershaw's book has a contemporary lesson, it is that societies are probably happiest and healthiest when leaders matter least. -- Dominic Sandbrook - Sunday Times
Sir Ian Kershaw, the great (in both senses) biographer of Adolf Hitler, makes an important contribution to this debate ... persuasive and nuanced pen-portraits ... well-researched, well-written and thought-provoking. -- Andrew Roberts - Daily Telegraph
Lucid portraits of the leaders who shaped Europe's 20th century ... There is much to be admired in Kershaw's cogent and astute analysis. -- Orlando Figes - The Observer
About the Author
Ian Kershaw is the author of Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, which received the Wolfson Literary Award for History and the Bruno Kreisky Prize in Austria for the Political Book of the Year, and was joint winner of the inaugural British Academy Book Prize. His other books include Making Friends with Hitler, which won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography; Fateful Choices; The End; and his histories of modern Europe, To Hell and Back and Roller-Coaster.