Dec. 14, 2022

326 | Ian Kershaw: The Personalities Who Built and Destroyed Modern Europe

326 | Ian Kershaw: The Personalities Who Built and Destroyed Modern Europe

Ian Kershaw, author of Personality and Power: Builders and Destroyers of Modern Europe, Hitler: A Biography, and The Global Age: Europe, 1950-2017, joins The Realignment to discuss how the characters and personalities of individual 20th-century European leaders led to triumph and tragedy. Ian and Marshall also discuss his evaluations of despots ranging from Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin to democratic leaders such as de Gaulle, Churchill, and Adenauer, and how we should approach today's authoritarian leaders.

From one of the leading historians of twentieth-century Europe and the author of the definitive biography of Hitler, Personality and Power is a masterful reckoning with how character conspired with opportunity to create the modern age’s uniquely devastating despots—and how and why other countries found better paths. 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 reshaped and wars were fought, often with a merciless contempt for the most basic norms. At the summit of these societies were leaders whose personalities somehow enabled them to do whatever they wished, regardless of the consequences for others.

Ian Kershaw’s new book is a compelling, lucid and challenging attempt to understand these rulers, whether those 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 in which they lived, that allowed them such untrammelled and murderous power? And what brought that era to an end? In a contrasting group of profiles—from Churchill to de Gaulle, Adenauer to Gorbachev and Thatcher to Kohl)


This episode is a part of The Realignment's daily end-of-year coverage of the themes and topics that defined 2022. 

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Ian Kershaw, author of Personality and Power: Builders and Destroyers of Modern Europe, Hitler: A Biography, and The Global Age: Europe, 1950-2017, joins The Realignment to discuss how the characters and personalities of individual 20th-century European leaders led to triumph and tragedy. Ian and Marshall also discuss his evaluations of despots ranging from Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin to democratic leaders such as de Gaulle, Churchill, and Adenauer, and how we should approach today's authoritarian leaders.