An interesting choice, but he wasn’t the one that sold it to make it so influential. Constantine maybe? I’m not up on my early church history.
Winston Churchill - Do I really need to explain this?
The problem I have with this line of thinking is that his leadership - defined in terms of the actual decisions and actions taken - basically came down to “keep the domestic political coalition together until the Americans eventually show up, because you owe them money and they have to.” What kept the British from losing militarily was 1) their existing huge navy, 2) their airplane research and production choices, and 3) the incredibly stupid U-boat tactical decisions by the German leadership.
Mao Zedong did some stupid stuff… but all in all, he did unify China… while he made some concessions and mistakes, he basically created China as we see it today.
Without Deng Xiaoping’s faction China right now would be a poor, non-industrializing backwater. Mao unified the country, but any idiot with an army can do that, and what’s the inherent value in creating a certain size of nation-state?
How his message was used, for good and bad, is another huge discussion altogether. I was just trying to make the small point that if he said the things that are attributed to him and these philosophies have been carried forward and integrated into the culture in the manner in which they have then it is an amazing story of influencing people.
As pointed out above, from 1939 until 1942 he kept the war against Germany going. Had it not been for his leadership it would have been likely that peace would have been made with Germany, bearing in mind that Russia was allied with Germany and the US was neutral until Germany declared war on them. Also bear in mind that without Britain it was inconceivable that a successful invasion of western Europe would have been made. Describing some of the 20th centuries finest speeches as ‘funny quips’ is pretty baseless.
Caligula was crazy. Many people believe that all of the good talk is from his initial 2 years. It is said that most of the people that opposed him died. It is very clear that little was said against him during his reign on fear of death. The evidence is light, but what is there is quite convincing.
Now, how can you call churchill over-rated when he gave this speech, just after the horrible defeat in continental europe, he gave one of the most famous speeches of the war.
Come on! The world seemed as if it was falling into its darkest times, and he was able to rally the people to stand strong against the facist regime. There are many more speeches he gave like this one. Here
Themistocles. He was the general architect of the expansion of the Athenian fleet anticipating the threat from Persia, prime mover of the forces arrayed against Xerxes, and commander at Salamis. Though he was eventually brought down by petty politics, he laid the foundation for Athenian power, and saved Greece and quite possibly democracy itself from Persian conquest. When you hold off the greatest empire in the world with an undersized PUG (pick up group) and send them packing with perhaps the greatest sea victory of all time, that deserves at least honorable mention.
As a long time wargamer, I’m gonna issue a shocker, considering all these war-related leaders being proposed:
Best: Ghandi. He did without war what everyone else accomplished only via force of arms, setting an example pretty much unmatched in scope and scale before or after. Now, I’ll admit, if it had been Nazi Germany that was in control of India rather than Britain, he’d have been a grease-spot while bloodletting on a cosmic scale would have been carried out over his grave, but nevertheless, he was the right man at the right time to take advantage of the conditions that others would not have been able to take advantage of.
Worst: Hitler. A catastrophe not to just his own country (like Stalin and Mao), but to virtually all his neighbors. Ultimately, there are more incompetent leaders than Hitler, but the scale of the carnage inflicted on Europe is simply staggering.
He had great military ideas, like Gallipoli…ummmm…the Invasion of Norway…no, wait, that was a catastrophe also…invading Italy, the soft underbelly of Europe…well, this one is better, since it knocked Italy out of the war, but proved how difficult it is take mountainous terrain.
Really, what he did best was prove obstinate, stubborn, and determined against what he viewed as an unrelenting evil that needed to be expunged. He never took the easy way out when he could have had peace with Germany for the asking at almost any time. Stalin didn’t give up because he really didn’t have an option, not to mention simple ego. Churchill kept going because he had the wisdom to understand that this was a foe that there could be no compromise with, despite having every opportunity to take the easy route.
Just don’t ask him to plan a military campaign.
Caligula wasn’t nearly as bad as his enemies portayed him, either. He was completely sane in his policies – his one big failure was his open contempt and paranoid distrust of the aristocracy.
Caligula was a disaster for the upper crust more than he was for Rome itself. He was pretty much just a hiccup in time as far as Rome goes.
Not to sound terribly Eurocentric but i expect this is not quite true considering how much European civilization has shaped the entire world over the last couple hundred years (basically anywhere there is a business suit, or a parliament, or any democracy for that matter, comes from European political ideas. There were virtually no democratic institutions anywhere else on Earth before the (post)colonization period of Europe.) And Buddhism has the unfortunate history of dying out in the country where it started, and (as far as i understand it) becoming quite Sino-ized in China and put into the service of the status quo. Confucianism gets moved up there for it’s number of adherents and influence on Chinese society, but China was for most of it’s history an island unto itself excepting only SE Asia.
I’m trying hard to think of the “worst” leaders. I’m sure there have absolutely dreadful leaders of minor nations, proportionately worse than more influential leaders of larger empires, but i can’t think of any really all that important ones… lots of 16th-17thc. European monarchs come to mind though.
Nicholas II If you want to blame WW1, WW2, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot on somebody, you might consider starting with him. It is by comfortable mediocrities that Empires and nations fall; the Neros are turned out before the damage they commit is fatal. It was too late for Europe by the time Nicholas was executed. And, sadly, he probably wasn’t a bad guy personally, and had he born to a station in life that had no real power probably would have been remembered (by his descendants) as a good father to his family. In a sense his disastrous policies were the actions of a dutiful son upholding what he saw to be the heritage of his forefathers.
China certainly was culturally isolated, except for being more or less conquered by barbarians from the north, and all the traders going to and from China from Middle East and Africa and even Europe, which for most of its history was a dank unwashed barbaric backwater, in spite of Christianity (or maybe because of it).
Christianity got most or all of its ideas from other earlier religions and philosophies anyway.
Yea, Christianity’s role in the European Miracle, or whatever it’s popularly called, that time between the 14th-20th Century where European civilization changed the world, is complex and not at all straightforward. Nevertheless Christianity was/is an essential component of the evolution of European ideas (even if it is at times the foil, rather than the cause, of European strength).
If you take the historic view Christianity’s ideas are quite similar at least superficially to many contemporary religions. But i highly doubt (and i mean 99% certainty doubt) there was any cross pollination from Confucianism. From Buddhism, indirectly through Zoroastrianism (which was transmitted indirectly through the mystery cults)… perhaps.