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Titans of History

The Giants Who Made Our World
Narrated by: Steve West
Length: 22 hrs and 31 mins
4 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

Regular price: $41.95

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Publisher's Summary

In this inspiring, horrifying, and accessible collection of short, entertaining, and vivid life stories, Simon Sebag Montefiore - one of our preeminent historians and a prizewinning writer - presents the giant characters who have changed the course of world history. 

These titans of history - encompassing queens, empresses, and actresses, kings, sultans, and conquerors, as well as prophets, artists, courtesans, psychopaths, and explorers - lived lives of astonishing drama, courage and adventure, debauchery and slaughter, virtue and crime. The subjects range widely throughout time and geography from Buddha and Genghis Khan to Nero and Churchill; from Catherine the Great and Anne Frank to Toussaint l’Ouverture and Martin Luther King; from Mozart to Mao; from Jesus Christ and Shakespeare to Einstein and Elvis. Through these lives, Montefiore recounts the most momentous world events - from ancient times to the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the Gulf Wars. 

These are the historical figures everyone should know and the stories we should never forget.

©2017 Simon Sebag Montefiore (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Entertaining and informative. Full of offbeat, fascinating detail.” (Sunday Telegraph)

“These sparkling biographical essays include all the usual suspects.... It’s a tour of the good, the bad and the ugly.” (Mail on Sunday (UK))

“We do not shudder at the depths to which men and women throughout history have sunk, but experience a piquant relish.... [A] book that reminds us how thin the veneer of civilisation is.” (The Times (London))

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Pushing the Bounds of Non-Fiction

I like the concept of writing a brief synopsis on various "Titans of History," but in reality the format is not very engaging. I also felt as though some of the author's summaries were biased. He paints..."Oliver Cromwell's place in history as a man of conscious, fearless leadership, military brilliance, piety and severity." But in reality he was a military dictator, responsible for genocidal acts in Ireland and Scotland. Many parallels between Cromwell and military dictators Mussolini and Hitler. So I was shocked by the author's summary until I read his background; now the favoritism makes sense.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Narada
  • Princeton, NJ, USA
  • 11-24-18

Party line history

The main plus of this book is the number of "titans" covered (though the selection is very questionable). The main minus is, first, the shallowness of each biography and second the completely orthodox viewpoint of each life. Some examples: the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero would, first, not really be titans in anyone's book, and secondly their evils are almost certainly greatly exaggerated (as pointed out by that revisionist Gibbon). The Borgias have been unjustly maligned (perhaps because they were Spaniards in Italy, and have always maintained a close relationship with Spanish interests), most of the aspersion cast against them are just that, and Alexander VI seemed generally a quite good and tolerant Pope, much better than his successors [who got to write the history]. Mohammed is described in the book as a saint (which he was extremely far from, according to the Hadith - he was clearly a brutal warlord). Genghis Khan (who brought a lot of good along with the not-so-good into the world) is, again, pastiched as a villain, while the vast majority of Muslim figures are praised to high heaven. Genghis' conquests would not have been possible without Subutai, who is not mentioned at all.

Moving on, of the US founding fathers, amazingly, Ben Franklin (certainly a giant in a number of domains) is not accorded a biography. Lincoln is given the usual hagiographic treatment. Stalin and Beria (certainly not saints) are tarred with Khruschev's brush (Beria was actually a far more positive figure, and even Stalin was not a cartoon villain). Mussolini, until his disastrous alliance with Hitler was far more benign than such pillars of democracy as Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

JFK is credited with handling the Cuban missile crisis (which his administration caused, thus almost plunging the planet into a nuclear war), while the far more influential (in both good and bad ways) president Nixon is not accorded a bigorgaphy. Mohammed Ali is, though.

Anyway, this is the standard center left tripe - no wonder Sebag Montefiore is a friend of both Prince Charles and David Cameron (two useful idiots).

Verdict: avoid.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Short, but well researched.

These short little articles on various politicians, writers, and others are good starting points for research. The author, noted for his works on the USSR has researched these people rather well. Narration needs more work however.

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I would love to read the "Good Titans of History"

I would love to read the "Good Titans of History" ... Next time please choose only titans that were "pure, clean and holy" ...

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Hit and miss

I would fast forward through the people I had no interest in. But listened intently to the good ones.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful