REVIEW: Titans of History, Simon Sebag Montefiore

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Simon Sebag Montefiore presents the lives of the giants who have made our world. The cast varies from conquerors, poets, kings, empresses and whores to psychopaths, prophets, composers and explorers. Informative, entertaining, inspiring and sometimes horrifying, this is a history of the world that contains the characters everyone should know and the stories no one should forget.

I had extremely high hopes for Simon Sebag Montefiore. I had seen the rave reviews, heard the endless praise but unfortunately, as it always seems to be the case, the expectation did not match the reality. I think that comes down primarily to Montefiore’s choices of ‘titan'. I know, I know, I read the disclaimer at the beginning of the book - that he admits wholeheartedly that the historical figures chosen are influenced by his own bias, but I think we really do need to stop and examine them for a moment.
The fact of the matter that the profiles, as most compilations like this tend to be if they don’t have a specific focus on the marginalised and overlooked figures of history, have a very male, very white, very western focus. I mean, the Aztecs and the Incas are mentioned strictly in the biographies of the white men who enslaved, murdered, and inhabited their land. And then, Montefiore is like, "they-sacrificed-babies-so-its-okay". Um, no it’s not.
Because by wiping out an entire empire of people, you may not be sacrificing babies, but you sure are killing them.
Does titan equate to a massacring arseholes who forcibly marry the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the people who they have defeated and like to carry out pickled heads in jars? I mean, that happened once but still, I think we know Montefiore’s answer to that question.
Because, according to him, it turns out that, to be remembered, all you have to do is massacre entire societies. So, guys, just so you know, if you want to be included in a book like this in two/three hundred years time, all you have to do kill some people and inflict some terror. I’m sure that none of your victims will mind, I mean, it’s all for the infamy, right? They’ll get it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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