On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Timothy Snyder

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Timothy Snyder

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and established rule by an elite with a monopoly on truth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. History can familiarise, and it can warn.

Today, we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny. Now is a good time to do so.

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