Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History

Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History

Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History

Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History


Can a political leader be effective without being tyrannical? Most biographies tend to treat the tyrannical aspect of a great leader's career as a contradiction to be minimized. This book examines both the creative and tyrannical aspects as the anticipated consequences of the exercise of power. Biographical profiles of 52 major world leaders throughout history feature pro/con essays reflecting contemporary views of the creative and tyrannical aspects of their record. Coverage is global, from Indira Gandhi to Fidel Castro, and spans history from the Egyptian king Akhenaton to Mikhail Gorbachev. Among the leaders profiled are Otto von Bismarck, Oliver Cromwell, Charles de Gaulle, Elizabeth I, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, Louis XIV, Mao Zedong, Napoleon I, Kwame Nkrumah, Juan Peron, and Tito. All biographies are written by subject specialists. This work encourages critical thinking and debate about the exercise of power.


One of the most serious questions troubling students of history is the degree to which tyranny must inevitably be an aspect of government. Is it possible for a ruler to be creative and effective without abusing the civil rights of citizens?

The pro/con format of each of the fifty-two biographical profiles contained in this book gives the reader an opportunity to debate this question. All the men and women profiled here were selected because, on balance, they left a legacy of ideas, attitudes, or physical accomplishments that benefited society. They often achieved their goals, however, by tyrannical methods and by ignoring the rights of ordinary folk. Some of these leaders were primarily creative and some were primarily tyrannical. It is up to the reader to make his or her own assessments, and it is probable that no two readers will draw the same conclusions. We hope, however, that all our readers will address the essential questions that induced us to assemble these essays. Can a leader be effective without being tyrannical? At what point does tyranny destroy itself?

Each biography begins with the full name of the leader, the offices held, and the dates of the leader's lifetime. A general introduction places the leader in historical context. A biographical sketch outlines the important facts about the leader's life. The author then poses two essays, in debate format, that contrast the creative and tyrannical roles of the subject. Suggestions for additional reading follow, including at least one classic biography of the subject and other published works regarded as valuable for examining the leader's life and work.

In selecting the leaders to profile, we have deliberately excluded those tyrannical leaders who, like Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, destroyed their own creativity through the excesses of their tyranny. Joseph Stalin, on the other hand, has been included because his contributions to history are still much in evidence, even though the Soviet Union has ceased to exist.

No attempt has been made to impose uniform spelling upon scholars . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.