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Autobiography and Decolonization
Modernity, Masculinity, and the Nation-State
Philip Holden
University of Wisconsin Press, 2008
Philip Holden reveals deeply gendered connections between the writing of individual lives and of the narratives of nations emerging from colonialism. Autobiography and Decolonization is the first book to give serious academic attention to autobiographies of nationalist leaders in the process of decolonization, attending to them not simply as partial historical documents, but as texts involved in remaking the world views of their readers.
            Holden examines Mohandas K. Gandhi’s An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Marcus Garvey’s fragmentary Autobiography,Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford’s Ethiopia Unbound, Lee Kuan Yew’s The Singapore Story, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Jawaharlal Nehru’s An Autobiography, and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana:The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah.
            Holden argues that these examples of life writing have had significant influence on the formation of new, and often profoundly gendered, national identities. These narratives constitute the nation less as an imagined community than as an imagined individual. Moving from the past to the promise of the future, they mediate relationships between public and private, and between individual and collective stories. Ultimately, they show how the construction of modern selfhood is inextricably linked to the construction of a postcolonial polity.
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Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin
Boris Bazhanov
Ohio University Press, 1990
On January 1, 1928, Bazhanov escaped from the Soviet Union and became for many years the most important member of a new breed—the Soviet defector. At the age of 28, he had become an invaluable aid to Stalin and the Politburo, and had he stayed in Stalin’s service, Bazhanov might well have enjoyed the same meteoric careers as the man who replaced him when he left, Georgy Malenkov. However, Bazhanov came to despise the unethical and brutal regime he served. One he decided to become anti–communist, he sought to bring down the regime. Planning his departure carefully, he brought with him documentation which revealed some of the innermost secrets of the Kremlin. Despite being pursued by the OGPU (an earlier incarnation of the KGB), he arrived eventually in Paris, and Bazhanov set to work writing his message to the West. While Bazhanov did successfully escape to the West, Stalin had Bazhanov watched and several attempts were made to assassinate him. Bazhanov may have been fearful for his life much of the time, but he was a man of courage and conviction, and he damned Stalin as often and as publicly as he could. In this riveting and illuminating book, Bazhanov provides an eyewitness account of the inner workings and personalities of the Soviet Central Committee and the Politburo in the 1920s. Bazhanov clearly details how Stalin invaded the communications of his opponents, rigged votes, built up his own constituency, and maneuvered to achieve his coup d’etat despite formidable odds. he also provides a better understanding of the curiously vapid way in which he other revolutionary leaders, most notably Trotsky, failed to appreciate the threat and let Stalin override them. He reveals how those Soviets with a sense of fairness, justice, and ethics were extinguished by Stalin and his minions, and how the self–centered, protective bureaucratic machine was first built. Bazhanov’s view, at the right hand of Stalin, is unique and chilling. Bazhanov’s post–defection prediction of Stalin’s continuing and fatal danger to Trotsky shows how well Bazhanov understood the dictator. His formation, in 1940, of an armed force recruited from Soviet Army prisoners to help Mannerheim defend Finland from Stalin’s forces and his 1941 decision to decline the position of Hitler’s Gauleiter of German–occupied Russia are fascinating. But perhaps the most interesting facet to Bazhanov’s tale is the fact that almost no Soviets—even today—know the real story of the Communist party’s criminal acquiescence in Stalin’s rise to, and abuse of, power.
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Bonaparte
1769–1802
Patrice Gueniffey
Harvard University Press, 2015

Patrice Gueniffey is the leading French historian of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic age. This book, hailed as a masterwork on its publication in France, takes up the epic narrative at the heart of this turbulent period: the life of Napoleon himself, the man who—in Madame de Staël’s words—made the rest of “the human race anonymous.” Gueniffey follows Bonaparte from his obscure boyhood in Corsica, to his meteoric rise during the Italian and Egyptian campaigns of the Revolutionary wars, to his proclamation as Consul for Life in 1802. Bonaparte is the story of how Napoleon became Napoleon. A future volume will trace his career as emperor.

Most books approach Napoleon from an angle—the Machiavellian politician, the military genius, the life without the times, the times without the life. Gueniffey paints a full, nuanced portrait. We meet both the romantic cadet and the young general burning with ambition—one minute helplessly intoxicated with Josephine, the next minute dominating men twice his age, and always at war with his own family. Gueniffey recreates the violent upheavals and global rivalries that set the stage for Napoleon’s battles and for his crucial role as state builder. His successes ushered in a new age whose legacy is felt around the world today.

Averse as we are now to martial glory, Napoleon might seem to be a hero from a bygone time. But as Gueniffey says, his life still speaks to us, the ultimate incarnation of the distinctively modern dream to will our own destiny.

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Caesar
A Life in Western Culture
Maria Wyke
University of Chicago Press, 2008
More than two millennia have passed since Brutus and his companions murdered Julius Caesar—and inaugurated his legend. Though the assassins succeeded in ending Caesar’s dictatorship, they could never have imagined that his power and influence would only grow after his death, reaching mythic proportions and establishing him as one of the central icons of Western culture, fascinating armchair historians and specialists alike.
 
With Caesar, Maria Wyke takes up the question of just why Julius Caesar has become such an exalted figure when most of his fellow Romans have long been forgotten. Focusing on key events in Caesar’s life, she begins with accounts from ancient sources, then traces the ways in which his legend has been adapted and employed by everyone from Machiavelli to Madison Avenue, Shakespeare to George Bernard Shaw. Napoleon and Mussolini, for example, cited Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in defense of their own dictatorial aims, while John Wilkes Booth fancied himself a new Brutus, ridding America of an imperial scourge. Caesar’s personal life, too, has long been fair game—but the lessons we draw from it have changed: Suetonius derided Caesar for his lustfulness and his love of luxury, but these days he and his lover Cleopatra serve as the very embodiment of glamour, enticingly invoked everywhere from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to the hit HBO series Rome.
 
Caesar is the witty and perceptive work of a writer who is as comfortable with the implications of Xena: Warrior Princess as with the long shadow cast by the Annals of Tacitus. Wyke gives us a Caesar for our own time: complicated, hotly contested, and perpetually, fascinatingly renewed.
 
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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
Ezra F. Vogel
Harvard University Press, 2011

Winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist


An Economist Best Book of the Year | A Financial Times Book of the Year | A Wall Street Journal Book of the Year | A Washington Post Book of the Year | A Bloomberg News Book of the Year | An Esquire China Book of the Year | A Gates Notes Top Read of the Year

Perhaps no one in the twentieth century had a greater long-term impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar of contemporary East Asian history and culture is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the many contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China’s boldest strategist.

Once described by Mao Zedong as a “needle inside a ball of cotton,” Deng was the pragmatic yet disciplined driving force behind China’s radical transformation in the late twentieth century. He confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dissolved Mao’s cult of personality, and loosened the economic and social policies that had stunted China’s growth. Obsessed with modernization and technology, Deng opened trade relations with the West, which lifted hundreds of millions of his countrymen out of poverty. Yet at the same time he answered to his authoritarian roots, most notably when he ordered the crackdown in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square.

Deng’s youthful commitment to the Communist Party was cemented in Paris in the early 1920s, among a group of Chinese student-workers that also included Zhou Enlai. Deng returned home in 1927 to join the Chinese Revolution on the ground floor. In the fifty years of his tumultuous rise to power, he endured accusations, purges, and even exile before becoming China’s preeminent leader from 1978 to 1989 and again in 1992. When he reached the top, Deng saw an opportunity to creatively destroy much of the economic system he had helped build for five decades as a loyal follower of Mao—and he did not hesitate.

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Franco
A Personal and Political Biography
Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios
University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
General Francisco Franco (1892–1975), ruler of Spain for nearly forty years, was one of the most powerful and controversial leaders in that nation's long history. This deeply researched biography treats the three major aspects of his life—personal, military, and political. It depicts his early life, explains his career and rise to prominence as an army officer who became Europe's youngest interwar brigadier general in 1926, and then discusses his role in the affairs of the troubled Second Spanish Republic.

Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios examine in detail how Franco became dictator and how his leadership led to victory in the Spanish Civil War that consolidated his regime. They also explore Franco's role in the great repression that accompanied the Civil War—resulting in tens of thousands of executions—and examine at length his controversial role in World War II. This masterful biography highlights Franco's metamorphoses and adaptations to retain power as politics, culture, and economics shifted in the four decades of his dictatorship.



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Hitler in History
Eberhard Jäckel
Brandeis University Press, 1989
A leading interpreter of the Nazi period addresses crucial issues in modern European and contemporary history.
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The Last Days of Hitler
Hugh Trevor-Roper
University of Chicago Press, 1992
Late in 1945, Trevor-Roper was appointed by British Intelligence in Germany to investigate conflicting evidence surrounding Hitler's final days and to produce a definitive report on his death. The author, who had access to American counterintelligence files and to German prisoners, focuses on the last ten days of Hitler's life, April 20-29, 1945, in the underground bunker in Berlin—a bizarre and gripping episode punctuated by power play and competition among Hitler's potential successors.

"From exhaustive research [Trevor-Roper] has put together a carefully documented, irrefutable, and unforgettable reconstruction of the last days in April, 1945."—New Republic

"A book sound in its scholarship, brilliant in its presentation, a delight for historians and laymen alike."—A. J. P. Taylor, New Statesman
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Lenin
A Biography
Robert Service
Harvard University Press, 2000

Lenin’s politics continue to reverberate around the world even after the end of the USSR. His name elicits revulsion and reverence, yet Lenin the man remains largely a mystery. This biography shows us Lenin as we have never seen him, in his full complexity as revolutionary, political leader, thinker, and private person.

Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870, the son of a schools inspector and a doctor’s daughter, Lenin was to become the greatest single force in the Soviet revolution—and perhaps the most influential politician of the twentieth century. Drawing on sources only recently discovered, Robert Service explores the social, cultural, and political catalysts for Lenin’s explosion into global prominence. His book gives us the vast panorama of Russia in that awesome vortex of change from tsarism’s collapse to the establishment of the communist one-party state. Through the prism of Lenin’s career, Service focuses on dictatorship, the Marxist revolutionary dream, civil war, and interwar European politics. And we are shown how Lenin, despite the hardships he inflicted, was widely mourned upon his death in 1924.

Service’s Lenin is a political colossus but also a believable human being. This biography stresses the importance of his supportive family and of its ethnic and cultural background. The author examines his education, upbringing, and the troubles of his early life to explain the emergence of a rebel whose devotion to destruction proved greater than his love for the “proletariat” he supposedly served. We see how his intellectual preoccupations and inner rage underwent volatile interaction and propelled his career from young Marxist activist to founder of the communist party and the Soviet state—and how he bequeathed to Russia a legacy of political oppression and social intimidation that has yet to be expunged.

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The Making of Adolf Hitler
The Birth and Rise of Nazism
Eugene Davidson
University of Missouri Press, 1997

The harsh Armistice terms of 1918, the short-lived Weimar Republic, Hindenburg's senile vacillations, and behind-the-scene power plays form the backbone of this excellent study covering German history during the first three-and-a-half decades of the century.

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Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World
A Concise History
Rebecca E. Karl
Duke University Press, 2010
Throughout this lively and concise historical account of Mao Zedong’s life and thought, Rebecca E. Karl places the revolutionary leader’s personal experiences, social visions and theory, military strategies, and developmental and foreign policies in a dynamic narrative of the Chinese revolution. She situates Mao and the revolution in a global setting informed by imperialism, decolonization, and third worldism, and discusses worldwide trends in politics, the economy, military power, and territorial sovereignty. Karl begins with Mao’s early life in a small village in Hunan province, documenting his relationships with his parents, passion for education, and political awakening during the fall of the Qing dynasty in late 1911. She traces his transition from liberal to Communist over the course of the next decade, his early critiques of the subjugation of women, and the gathering force of the May 4th movement for reform and radical change. Describing Mao’s rise to power, she delves into the dynamics of Communist organizing in an overwhelmingly agrarian society, and Mao’s confrontations with Chiang Kaishek and other nationalist conservatives. She also considers his marriages and romantic liaisons and their relation to Mao as the revolutionary founder of Communism in China. After analyzing Mao’s stormy tenure as chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Karl concludes by examining his legacy in China from his death in 1976 through the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
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The Meaning of Hitler
Sebastian Haffner
Harvard University Press, 1983

This is a remarkable historical and psychological examination of the enigma of Adolf Hitler—who he was, how he wielded power, and why he was destined to fail.

Beginning with Hitler’s early life, Sebastian Haffner probes the historical, political, and emotional forces that molded his character. In examining the inhumanity of a man for whom politics became a substitute for life, he discusses Hitler’s bizarre relationships with women, his arrested psychological development, his ideological misconceptions, his growing obsession with racial extermination, and the murderous rages of his distorted mind. Finally, Haffner confronts the most disturbing question of all: Could another Hitler rise to power in modern Germany?

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Napoleon and de Gaulle
Patrice Gueniffey
Harvard University Press, 2020

An Australian Book Review Best Book of the Year

One of France’s most famous historians compares two exemplars of political and military leadership to make the unfashionable case that individuals, for better and worse, matter in history.

Historians have taught us that the past is not just a tale of heroes and wars. The anonymous millions matter and are active agents of change. But in democratizing history, we have lost track of the outsized role that individual will and charisma can play in shaping the world, especially in moments of extreme tumult. Patrice Gueniffey provides a compelling reminder in this powerful dual biography of two transformative leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle.

Both became national figures at times of crisis and war. They were hailed as saviors and were eager to embrace the label. They were also animated by quests for personal and national greatness, by the desire to raise France above itself and lead it on a mission to enlighten the world. Both united an embattled nation, returned it to dignity, and left a permanent political legacy—in Napoleon’s case, a form of administration and a body of civil law; in de Gaulle’s case, new political institutions. Gueniffey compares Napoleon’s and de Gaulle’s journeys to power; their methods; their ideas and writings, notably about war; and their postmortem reputations. He also contrasts their weaknesses: Napoleon’s limitless ambitions and appetite for war and de Gaulle’s capacity for cruelty, manifested most clearly in Algeria.

They were men of genuine talent and achievement, with flaws almost as pronounced as their strengths. As many nations, not least France, struggle to find their soul in a rapidly changing world, Gueniffey shows us what a difference an extraordinary leader can make.

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The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders
With Profiles of Saddam Hussein and Bill Clinton
Jerrold M. Post, Editor
University of Michigan Press, 2005

In an age when world affairs are powerfully driven by personality, politics require an understanding of what motivates political leaders such as Hussein, Bush, Blair, and bin Laden. Through exacting case studies and the careful sifting of evidence, Jerrold Post and his team of contributors lay out an effective system of at-a-distance evaluation. Observations from political psychology, psycholinguistics and a range of other disciplines join forces to produce comprehensive political and psychological profiles, and a deeper understanding of the volatile influences of personality on global affairs.

Even in this age of free-flowing global information, capital, and people, sovereign states and boundaries remain the hallmark of the international order -- a fact which is especially clear from the events of September 11th and the War on Terrorism.

Jerrold M. Post, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology, and International Affairs, and Director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University. He is the founder of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior.

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Stalin
A Biography
Robert Service
Harvard University Press, 2005

Overthrowing the conventional image of Stalin as an uneducated political administrator inexplicably transformed into a pathological killer, Robert Service reveals a more complex and fascinating story behind this notorious twentieth-century figure. Drawing on unexplored archives and personal testimonies gathered from across Russia and Georgia, this is the first full-scale biography of the Soviet dictator in twenty years.

Service describes in unprecedented detail the first half of Stalin's life--his childhood in Georgia as the son of a violent, drunkard father and a devoted mother; his education and religious training; and his political activity as a young revolutionary. No mere messenger for Lenin, Stalin was a prominent activist long before the Russian Revolution. Equally compelling is the depiction of Stalin as Soviet leader. Service recasts the image of Stalin as unimpeded despot; his control was not limitless. And his conviction that enemies surrounded him was not entirely unfounded.

Stalin was not just a vengeful dictator but also a man fascinated by ideas and a voracious reader of Marxist doctrine and Russian and Georgian literature as well as an internationalist committed to seeing Russia assume a powerful role on the world stage. In examining the multidimensional legacy of Stalin, Service helps explain why later would-be reformers--such as Khrushchev and Gorbachev--found the Stalinist legacy surprisingly hard to dislodge.

Rather than diminishing the horrors of Stalinism, this is an account all the more disturbing for presenting a believable human portrait. Service's lifetime engagement with Soviet Russia has resulted in the most comprehensive and compelling portrayal of Stalin to date.

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Succession to High Office in Botswana
Three Case Studies
Jack Parson
Ohio University Press, 1990
This book examines the process through which the mantle of leadership passed from one leader to another in Botswana. It concerns the succession to high office in Botswana over the course of more than half a century from the colonial time to the present. Three case studies explore the relationship between the British colonial authorities and the tribal leaders in affirming the legitimacy of the tribal chiefs of the Bangwato tribe in the former Bechuanaland protectorate. The studies examine the succession crises of the Bangwato first in 1925 and again between 1948 to 1953 and the political changes from the Botswana National Archives contained in the appendices fully support the text.
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