“It is thus a primary American tradition to consider history when our political order seems imperiled. If we worry today that the American experiment is threatened by tyranny, we can follow the example of the Founding Fathers and contemplate the history of other democracies and republics. The good news is that we can draw upon more recent and relevant examples than ancient Greece and Rome. The bad news is that the history of modern democracy is also one of decline and fall.”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Among the opening passages in Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.” This book does just that, it instructs us on how to evaluate and navigate the political currents that we face in the United States today. Dr. Snyder, a professor of European and Political History, shows how the rise of Candidate and President Trump has similarities with the rise of modern tyrannical leaders. He takes the History of political movements and the falls of democratic governments in the periods after World War I and before World War II, after World War II, and after the end of the Cold War and uses them to show us how to identify and resist the rise of tyranny here at home. Written because of what the author observed happening around him, On Tyranny reminds me of the political pamphlets and treatises written around the American Revolution. Just as those writings were important in bringing the United States its freedom, this book can be important in keeping our freedom. On Tyranny, though short, is engaging and thought-provoking. Whether you believe that the United States could be slipping toward tyranny or not, it would be in your best interest to read it with an open mind, be vigilant of what it warns of, and heed the lessons it presents.
I would also recommend Dan Snow’s History Hit Podcast episode about On Tyranny with Dr. Snyder, in which he and host Dan Snow discuss the book and current events. An important takeaway is Dr. Snyder’s advice not to panic.