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Big Caesars and Little Caesars

How They Rise and How They Fall - From Julius Caesar to Boris Johnson

Ferdinand Mount



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31 October 2023

Who said that dictatorship was dead? The world today is full of Strong Men and their imitators. Caesarism is alive and well. Yet in modern times it’s become a strangely neglected subject. Ferdinand Mount opens up a fascinating exploration of how and why Caesars seize power and why they fall.

""Fast paced and impassioned"" -- Sunday Telegraph

""Wonderfully wry"" -- The Guardian

""...a delight"" -- Sunday Times

""Delicious work, beautifully and acerbically written"" -- Wall Street Journal

There is a comforting illusion shared by historians and political commentators from Fukuyama back to Macaulay, Mill and Marx, that history progresses in a nice straight line towards liberal democracy or socialism, despite the odd hiccup.

In reality, every democracy, however sophisticated or stable it may look, has been attacked or actually destroyed by a would-be Caesar, from Ancient Greece to the present day. Marx was wrong. This Caesarism is not an absurd throwback, it is an ever-present danger.

There are Big Caesars who set out to achieve total social control and Little Caesars who merely want to run an agreeable kleptocracy without opposition: from Julius Caesar and Oliver Cromwell through Napoleon and Bolivar, to Mussolini, Salazar, De Gaulle and Trump. The saga of Boris Johnson and Brexit frequently crops up in this author's narrative as a vivid, if Lilliputian instance of the same phenomenon.

The final part of this book describes how and why would-be Caesars come to grief, from the Gunpowder Plot to Trump’s march on the Capitol and the ejection of Boris Johnson by his own MPs, and ends with a defence of the grubby glories of parliamentary politics and a thought-provoking roadmap of the way back to constitutional government."
Imprint:   Continuum
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9781399409711
ISBN 10:   1399409719
Pages:   304
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Ferdinand Mount was Political Editor of The Spectator and Editor of The Times Literary Supplement. For two years he was head of Margaret Thatcher’s think-tank – The Number 10 Policy Unit. He is an authority on politics today, and writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Apart from political columns and essays, he has written a six-volume series of novels, A Chronicle of Modern Twilight, which began with The Man Who Rode Ampersand, based on his father's racing life, and included Of Love And Asthma, which won the Hawthornden Prize for 1992. His most recent books are Kiss Myself Goodbye: The Many Lives of Aunt Munca, and the novel Making Nice, both published by Bloomsbury Continuum.

Reviews for Big Caesars and Little Caesars: How They Rise and How They Fall - From Julius Caesar to Boris Johnson

Pass deep historical knowledge through the silkiest of minds and deliver the product onto the page with the most fluent of pens, and you find the combination of gifts which make Ferdie Mount pre-eminent among the political commentariat of our day. He has created a book that will endure in 50 years' time when students of British Politics will still struggle to understand how the supposedly most mature political system in the world could have placed Boris Johnson in Downing Street for three years. This is the volume they will have to read first. * Peter Hennessy * Always absorbing and often bitterly funny, Ferdinand Mount’s survey traces with characteristic panache an unedifying line of populist opportunists from classical times down to the shoddy and sinister figures of Johnson and Trump. His eloquent concluding call for the restoration and safeguarding of parliamentary authority has never been more urgently needed. * Roy Foster, Emeritus Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford * Wry, informative but deadly – a great book. * Will Hutton * A wonderfully wry field guide to autocrats. With tremendous wit and wisdom, the former head of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit identifies the qualities particular to dictators – and warns against consigning such people to history… Mount, learned to the pink tips of his ears, knows so much, and what he didn’t before, he has found out. Mount’s considerable journalistic skills deployed here in the cause of concision, the pricking of pomposity and, sometimes, his own outrage…He is especially good on Johnson…Mount is beautifully wry in this book, on top of everything else. * Observer * …a fast-paced and impassioned essay. * Sunday Telegraph * Mount is an entertaining guide to dictatorship. * Book of the week, The Times *

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