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Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle
Paul Johnson

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Heroes is available in Paperback

Format: Hardcover, 320pp.
ISBN: 9780061143168
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: November 27, 2007

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

A galaxy of legendary figures from the annals of Western history comes to life in this stirring sequel to Intellectuals and Creators.

In this enlightening, entertaining work, Paul Johnson continues his engaging history series, approaching the subject of heroism with stirring examples of men and women from every age, walk of life and corner of the world who have inspired and transformed not only their own cultures but the whole world as well.

Heroes includes:

• Samson, Judith and Deborah
• Alexander and julius Caesar
• Henry V and Joan of Arc
• Thomas More, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Queen of Scots
• Elizabeth I and Walter Ralegh
• George Washington, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson
• Emily Dickinson
• Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee
• Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle
• Mae West and Marilyn Monroe
• Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II


In a companion volume to Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney (2006), prolific English historian Johnson offers a highly idiosyncratic selection of his favorite extraordinary mortals, male and female. The conservative world view evident in works like Intellectuals (1989) was slightly muffled in Creators, but it's back with all flags flying here, especially in a bizarrely reactionary final chapter on the "heroic trinity" of Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II. (Not that the incongruous essay that precedes it, "Heroism Behind the Greasepaint: Mae West and Marilyn Monroe," is much more enlightened.) Safely dead for millennia, Alexander the Great and Caesar are less surprising choices, though their ruthless quest of vast empires and boundless self-ambition gives Johnson some pause. Churchill, naturally, wins a solid place as a "generous hero," while de Gaulle is grudgingly included as "a heroic monster." The Hebrews "made full use of the brains and courage of their women," declares Johnson in a chapter on the biblical feats of Deborah, Judith, Samson and David. Though the author believes that "when performed by women [heroism's] element of hate and inhumanity appears particularly savage, he nonetheless lists British Queen Boudica, who led a surprisingly successful revolt against Roman rule in 60-61 A.D. Medieval nationalist figures Joan of Arc and Henry V are cited, along with the predicable pantheon of Elizabethan heroes honed "in the age of the axe." Superhumans fashioned "in the roar of the cannon's mouth" (Washington, Nelson and Wellington) are followed by Civil War leaders Lincoln and Lee. Johnson offers some terrific choices in Jane Welsh Carlyle, stuck in a torturousmarriage, and reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, whose life was a "successful struggle against fear." Wittgenstein warrants a long, tedious chapter, though the author perks up while discussing famous hostesses throughout history. The author's vast stores of scholarship and reading keep this jaunty trek from becoming corny.
—Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

Paul Johnson is a historian whose work ranges over the millennia and the whole gamut of human activities. His History of Christianity and History of the Jews describe the religious dimension, his Modern Times encapsulates the twentieth century, and his Art: A New History is the story of visual culture in all its forms, from the cave painters to today. He contributes a weekly essay to the Spectator, a monthly column to Forbes, practices the gentle art of watercolor painting, and lives in London and Somerset. He has four children and eight grandchildren.

Table of Contents
Introduction: What Is a Hero?
1God's Heroes: Deborah, Judith, Samson and David1
2Earthshakers: Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar27
3Feminist Fire and Slaughter: Boudica49
4Exemplary Heroes: Henry V and Joan of Arc56
5Heroism in the Age of the Axe: St. Thomas More, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Ralegh76
6In the Roar of the Cannon's Mouth: Washington, Nelson and Wellington112
7Tortured Heroism in a Man's World: Jane Welsh Carlyle and Emily Dickinson143
8Two Kinds of Nobility: Lincoln and Lee165
9Cerebral Heroism: Ludwig Wittgenstein180
10The Heroism of the Hostess: Lady Pamela Berry et al.199
11A Generous Hero and a Heroic Monster: Churchill and de Gaulle215
12Heroism Behind the Greasepaint: Mae West and Marilyn Monroe234
13The Heroic Trinity Who Tamed the Bear: Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II253
Epilogue:Any Future for Heroism?275
Notes on Further Reading281

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Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle • Paperback
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