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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Dangerous Games by Margaret MacMillan

Title: Dangerous Games
Author: Margaret MacMillan
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: July 13, 2010
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a history lover.
What's the Story?:

From "Acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan explores here the many ways in which history affects us all. She shows how a deeper engagement with history, both as individuals and in the sphere of public debate, can help us understand ourselves and the world better. But she also warns that history can be misused and lead to misunderstanding. History is used to justify religious movements and political campaigns alike. Dictators may suppress history because it undermines their ideas, agendas, or claims to absolute authority. Nationalists may tell false, one-sided, or misleading stories about the past. Political leaders might mobilize their people by telling lies. It is imperative that we have an understanding of the past and avoid these and other common traps in thinking to which many fall prey. This brilliantly reasoned work, alive with incident and figures both great and infamous, will compel us to examine history anew—and skillfully illuminates why it is important to treat the past with care."

My Two Cents:

This book fell sort of flat for me. It's been said that 'history is written by the victors' and MacMillan, a noted historian, believes this is true (as do I). MacMillan's premise is that what we understand to be our history is really subjective. Yes, there are facts in history but there is always story and that is the part that becomes subjective. What facts are left in? What facts are left out? What's glossed over? What's emphasized? I think this is something that historians struggle with a lot.

I was expecting something a little more in depth. Each chapter is dedicated to a different way that history can be used. It's chock full of examples but with very little explanation of the implications of how the particular history told. I really wish that it would have gone more into more of how history is told differently depending on who is telling it. Recently there's been a couple news stories about school history books in various areas that have either included or un-included things based on the area that the books were for. It would have been interested to hear more about that.

This is a good overview but if you're looking for something with more explanation and food for thought.



  1. Sounds like this book had a lot of promise. I agree that the implications of the history told would have made for a more fascinating book.

  2. What would the author say about historical novels and the uses of history by various novelists?

  3. I love history and this one does sound really interesting. Too bad the author did not go more in depth, it would have made it a must read for me.

  4. I'm glad it wasn't a complete let down. This one was new to me.

  5. Hm, sounds like it had potential. That's disappointing that it didn't live up to it.


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