Greatness and Modern Historians
I just picked up the book Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders and it’s proving to be a good read. The comparison between Reagan and Churchill has not been often made. But in writing extensively on both individuals, the author began to see the many parallels between these leaders, which he explores in this book and ties to the concept of greatness.
At the beginning, he points out that the concept of individual greatness is inimical to the mainstream thinking of modern history:
The mainstream of contemporary history and political science does not adequately take account of the nature and sources of political greatness. Indeed, the egalitarian temper of modern intellectual life, combined with the reductionist methodology of social science, deprecates individual greatness and seeks to reduce the course of human affairs to material and subrational forces.
But he quotes the British historian Geoffrey Elton with an excellent response to this:
When I meet a historian who cannot think that there have been great men, great men moreover in politics, I feel myself in the presence of a bad historian.