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Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution

$49.99

$49.99

The word charisma may trace its origins to ancient Greece, but its meaning has never been fixed in the solid schist of classical Athens. For Saint Paul, to possess charisma was to be filled with divine grace; for Max Weber, it demonstrated how authority could be wielded successfully in defiance of tradition. In Men on Horseback, the Princeton historian David A. Bell offers a dramatic new interpretation of charisma, arguing that its contemporary resonance is best understood by refracting it through the lives of five extraordinary revolutionaries.

From the Corsican Pasquale Paoli, a favorite subject of James Boswell, to George Washington; from Toussaint Louverture to his betrayer, Napoleon Bonaparte; and finally to Simón Bolívar, who witnessed the coronation of Napoleon and later sought refuge in newly independent Haiti: taking these five leaders as his subject, Bell weaves a spellbinding tale of power and its ability to mesmerize.

Ultimately, Bell tells the crucial and neglected story of how leadership was reinvented for a world without kings and queens. His subjects were were men on horseback who sought to be men of the people; as he shows, modern democracy, militarism, and the cult of the strong man all emerged together. Charisma is democracy’s shadow self, and it cannot be dispelled; in the end, Bell offers a stirring injunction to reimagine charisma as an animating force for good.

Book Information

  • ISBN: 9780374207922
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pub Date: 16/10/2020
  • Category: Economics, finance, business & management / Management: leadership & motivation
  • Imprint: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Pages: 352
  • Price: $49.99

The word charisma may trace its origins to ancient Greece, but its meaning has never been fixed in the solid schist of classical Athens. For Saint Paul, to possess charisma was to be filled with divine grace; for Max Weber, it demonstrated how authority could be wielded successfully in defiance of tradition. In Men on Horseback, the Princeton historian David A. Bell offers a dramatic new interpretation of charisma, arguing that its contemporary resonance is best understood by refracting it through the lives of five extraordinary revolutionaries.

From the Corsican Pasquale Paoli, a favorite subject of James Boswell, to George Washington; from Toussaint Louverture to his betrayer, Napoleon Bonaparte; and finally to Simón Bolívar, who witnessed the coronation of Napoleon and later sought refuge in newly independent Haiti: taking these five leaders as his subject, Bell weaves a spellbinding tale of power and its ability to mesmerize.

Ultimately, Bell tells the crucial and neglected story of how leadership was reinvented for a world without kings and queens. His subjects were were men on horseback who sought to be men of the people; as he shows, modern democracy, militarism, and the cult of the strong man all emerged together. Charisma is democracy’s shadow self, and it cannot be dispelled; in the end, Bell offers a stirring injunction to reimagine charisma as an animating force for good.

Author Information

David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Era of North Atlantic Revolutions at Princeton University and the author of six previous books, among them The First Total War and Shadows of Revolution.

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