Allan Levine Reviews Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice and Terror

April 18, 2018

Tyrants, then and now


Not all tyrants are Voldemort. Waller R. Newell explains why.


The history of tyranny is not black and white; not all tyrants have been Voldemort-like, argues Newell, a professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University. He examines a long line of them, from Roman emperors and Robespierre to Hitler, Stalin and the ayatollahs of Iran. Tyranny, he finds, has had a “strange career . . . as both the oppressor of liberty and the builder of civilizations.” Moreover, tyranny is also about personalities who attract zealous followers. These power-seekers are “outsized, sometimes charismatic, sometimes amusing, always fascinating and frightening,” a description that could fit Donald Trump. (The leaders of the Islamic State are merely “tyrants in waiting,” he says.)


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