Ideas From The CBC

Tuesday, March 13 at 2:00 pm

On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th century

Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world. And Timothy Snyder wants to push back against this tide. A history professor at Yale University who's written widely on Europe and the Holocaust, takes an unusual approach in his little book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. It's not a sweeping historical analysis, but a collection of observations and suggestions on what forms resisting authoritarianism can take. Some of them are simple, like reading more, or not repeating popular phrases, or simply believing in the truth. Some are less intuitive, like making more eye contact. This episode features the lecture he gave in Toronto and a follow-up conversation with host Paul Kennedy.

"History does not repeat, but it does instruct." That's the opening line of his Timothy Snyder's book On Tyranny — which is anything but a conventional history tome. Professor Snyder wants it that way. He wanted it to look like an 18th century pamphlet: conversational, aphoristic, punchy and to the point. He wants not just to inform, but to provoke thought. To challenge the conventions that social media bubbles have been fermenting for years. And to break those bubbles wide open.

If history teaches us anything, he tells Paul Kennedy, it's what the boundaries and direction our moral agency may take. Its lessons should lead not to despair, but to action.

Timothy Snyder is a world-renowned authority on Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. He is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. His book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, is published by Tim Duggan Books.

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