Authors: Simon Sebag Montefiore
SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE
With John Bew, Martyn Frampton,
Dan Jones and Claudia Renton
New York â¢ London
Â© 2012 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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Simon Sebag Montefiore was born in 1965 and read history at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University.
Catherine the Great & Potemkin
was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography Prizes.
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards.
won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the
Book Prize for Biography (US), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). Montefiore's books are published in 40 languages. His latest book is
Jerusalem: The Biography
. He is also the author of the novel
. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. He is the presenter of the BBC TV series,
Jerusalem: the Making of a Holy City
. For more information or to contact the author, see
or follow him on Twitter @simonmontefiore
John Bew is Harris Fellow in Modern British History and Director of Studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge. His biography of Lord Castlereagh,
Enlightenment, War and Tyranny
, was published in 2011.
Martyn Frampton is Lecturer in Modern/Contemporary History at Queen Mary, University of London. His publications include
The Long March
Legion of the Rearguard
Dan Jones is a journalist and historian. He is the author of
Summer of Blood
Claudia Renton is a writer and actress who has appeared on stage with the RSC and at the Royal National Theatre, and on television for the BBC and ITV.
TO MY DARLING CHILDREN LILY AND SASHA
Thank you to David North, Mark Smith, Patrick Carpenter and my editor, Josh Ireland, at Quercus; to my fellow contributors Dan Jones, Claudia Renton, John Bew and Martyn Frampton, all gifted historians; my agent Georgina Capel, Anthony Cheetham, Slav Todorov, Richard Milbank, Mark Hawkins-Dady; Professor F. M. Eloischari; Robert Hardman, Jonathan Foreman. And, above all, my darling children Lily and Sasha and my wife Santa.
When I was a child, I read a short articleâlike one of those contained in this bookâabout the sinister world of Josef Stalin. It fascinated me enough to make me read more on the subject. Many years later, I found myself working in the Russian archives to research my first book on Stalin. My aim is that these short biographies will encourage and inspire readers to find out more about these extraordinary individualsâthe men and women who created the world we live in today.
But history is not just the drama of the terrible and thrilling events of times gone by: we must understand our past to understand our present and future. “Who controls the past controls the future,” wrote George Orwell, author of
, and, “Who controls the present controls the past.” Karl Marx joked about Napoleon and his nephew Napoleon III that “all historical facts and and personages appear twiceâthe first time as a tragedy, the second time as farce.” Marx was wrong about thisâas he was about much else: history does not repeat itself but it contains many warnings and lessons. Great men and women have rightly studied history to help them steer the present. For example three of the 20th century's most homicidal monsters, Hitler, Stalin and Maoâall of whom appear in this bookâwere history buffs who spent much of both their misspent youths and their years in power reading about their own historical heroes.
At the time that Hitler came to order the slaughter of European Jewry in the Holocaust, he was encouraged by the Ottoman massacres of the Armenians during the First World War: “Who now remembers the Armenians?” he mused. The Armenian massacres feature in this
book. When Stalin ordered the Great Terror, he looked back to the atrocities of his hero, Ivan the Terrible: “Who now remembers the nobles killed by Ivan the Terrible?” he asked his henchmen. Ivan the Terrible too is in this book. And Mao Zedong, as he unleashed waves of mass killings on China, was inspired by the First Emperor, another character who can be found in this book's pages.