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Publisher's Summary

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the 20th century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. History can familiarise, and it can warn. Today we are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to totalitarianism in the 20th century. But when the political order seems imperilled, our advantage is that we can learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny. Now is a good time to do so.

©2017 Timothy Snyder (P)2017 Random House

What listeners say about On Tyranny

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  • Philip I. Kyson
  • 04-06-17

outstanding

A timely reminder of how to avoid the tyranny that is now at the front door of most peoples of the world. Knocking on all its guises.

1 person found this helpful

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  • CJ V. Schalkwyk
  • 09-03-21

Update

I would like to know if there will be an update which warns the populous of Biden and what the Democrats are doing.

As a South African, the reference to Trump was more funny than important, though I think that most people should learn to think for them selves and realise that all forms of media will be biased for / against government and learn to find as much of the story behind the stories as possible.

I noticed that the problems of BLM was not addressed directly, but if one follows the methods proposed and follow the money, you'll find it to be Dems using chaos for political gain.

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  • John Pope
  • 29-07-20

Concise, illuminating and epic.

Timothy Snyder’s grasp of political history, and his ability to apply its lessons to contemporary events, is nothing short of ingenious.

If you genuinely want to understand where we are today and where tomorrow might take us, then you MUST also understand where we have come from first to adequately appreciate the context of our current situation.

This short book is required reading for anyone who wants to maintain western democratic values in the face of the growing trend towards authoritarian ‘sadopopulism’ that is currently espoused by Putin’s oligarchy/kleptocracy, Steve Bannon’s nationalist populism or Donald Trump’s cult of personality - which are all essentially slightly unique variations of the same dark and twisted ideology.

Timothy Snyder has given 21st century liberal democracy the biggest wake-up call it could possibly get; now it’s time for all of us who care about our future to answer his clarion call. Thanks to Snyder, I know I will.

And one day hopefully have a chance to buy him a beer - along with his next book.

Onwards to ‘The Road of Unfreedom’.

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  • Mabbers
  • 05-09-19

A quick read to change how you see things

Short, snappy and made me realise that things are worse than I had previously thought. However, it does give practical advice so it is also optimistic. Everyone should read/listen to On Tyranny.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-04-17

Great and currently important

Loved it enough that I listened through twice in a few days! I'm English and feel quite strongly that young people in Europe and America need to know more history to enable us to maintain our progressive cultures, otherwise dictators may usurp power in a way we currently feel impossible having mentally consigned fascism to the past.

Well worth a listen, and has a recommended reading list in one chapter, so might be worth doing further research.

Well delivered by the author with no production errors!

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  • Gita G.
  • 21-03-19

Important reading

Very thought provoking listen. Well read. Great anti-complacency brain food. Wake up and think. Highly recommend.

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  • Jeremy from Preston UK
  • 28-04-18

Why was I so slow to find this excellent manifesto and warning

Having listened to the audio version narrated by the author, I feel powerfully better informed and motivated to join a modern day version of The International Brigade “No passaran!”

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  • abdullahi mohamud
  • 28-03-17

Essential reading for our current age

An excellent, compact analysis of the lurch towards fascism in the West and what ordinary people should be doing to resist this tide. The lessons are familiar to anyone who has read any of the classic works on totalitarianism but Snyder introduces modern examples such as the Russian war against Ukraine and its attempts to destabilise Western Europe through disinformation and promoting right wing Islamophobes. Best lesson? Get off the Internet! Read a book and actually spend time talking to people outside of your bubble.

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  • Stephen Reid
  • 30-04-22

What are historians for?

This book shows is why history is important - to understand our own times and where we are headed. Snyder gives us crucial learnings from the past do we can navigate our present.

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  • RC
  • 18-04-22

Stimulating and clever

Couldnt put it down. So much well thought out matetial. Very comprehensive. Has had a very profound effect on me.

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  • MJ
  • 19-01-22

There's a bigger book in here!

I understand this is better described as 20 lessons... for the US as the whole book seems like a direct response to the outrageous fascism of Trump. But these lessons have a much bigger audience and reading in 2021, the UK and the Johnson debacle is almost perfectly described inbetween the lines. A great audiobook, I just wanted more and the subject is certainly worthy of it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-08-21

Fantastic… but incomplete

Frankly, this is one of the best (short) books I have ever read. Clearly an expert on the dystopian realities of the 20th century, as well as the wisdom at the heart of the theory of liberal democracy, the author flawlessly and transparently makes for some really troubling listening.

But what at first may appear to be a political but not partisan critique of right-wing populism falters when it concludes without balancing Trump critiques with the illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-American elements of the modern left.

This is problematic for two reasons:

1. It fails in its task to prep future generations to face the threat of authoritarianism by ignoring massive parts of it. For instance, the author brands campaign finance regulation as illogical (which is a fair point) without mentioning that without it primarily left-wing media outlets would monopolise political discourse (which is another fair point). This is especially puzzling because the author is fantastic in his critique of the Soviet Union’s illiberal lifespan, demonstrating that the work was intended to be historically impartial. Furthermore, the way the UK’s campaign to leave the EU was written off as Trump-like populism ignores that it was a cross-spectrum campaign, fought by many who were concerned that removing sovereignty from accountable parliaments was bolstering the rise of the far right throughout Europe.

2. Failing to achieve this balance has essentially made this book inaccessible to anyone who has ever supported Trump, seeing as they will perceive of it only as another “left-wing attack” on “my president”. Despite what I’ve said above, the primary threat to western democracy remains right wing populism, meaning that Trump supporters are the people who desperately need to read this work.

This work is a must read, so it’s a shame it isn’t a little more accessible.

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  • Alan G
  • 25-02-22

Prescient

As a large minority in the US continue to lurch to the hard Right and Putin has opted to trash international law, 5 years on from its writing this book is a compelling read and has proven too prophetic for comfort. Diligently researched, intelligently crafted and concisely written, it remains a wake up call for all

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  • Sam
  • 23-08-17

The most important book I've ever read.

I beg you to read this. A hugely important book that is short, easily digestible, with every sentence hitting a home run.

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  • Peter
  • 17-06-17

A must listen for under 30's

Well done Timothy Snyder (again) - this book is arguably the most important bit of literature in our current times. Nobody has so eloquently summarised the perils of the current world in a way that is simple and direct. The book provides practical and critical advice - to promote democracy and to be attuned to creeping perils of fascism and tyranny. To all the disenfranchised young people of the world - please listen to this book. I am going to buy hard copies to give away.

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  • Randall
  • 17-05-22

Important Work

Concise and to the point, highlighting patterns of all tyrannies and authoritarian leaders. Some of the reviews of the reviewers who have given this a low score appear to feel uncomfortable with how it makes them feel about their political views. I cannot agree with their reviews, this is an important work and if you admire authoritarian style leaders, it will make you feel uncomfortable.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-03-21

The Handbook on How to Hate Trump

it is extremely disappointing that an academic like Snyder can be so desperate to gain cudos from one side of politics that he undercuts what could have been a very important message with relentless partisan attacks and even fails to follow his own "lessons". Where he could have shown concern for the working class American Trump Voter and displayed how Trump takes advantage of them his tone instead minimises their concern and pays no appreciation to their lives, to instead pitch to an audience that the author apparently assumes is antithetical to those who have a different life and viewpoint to them. His evident bias is made all the more evident when he claims that certain politicians are bad for quoting each other out of context before preceding throughout his own text to place the words of other politicians he disproves of next to quotes from Hitler, clearly out of their original situational context, thereby undercutting the salience of his message by partaking in the very thing he warns us not to do. How can one read the message of Snyder as being important or well founded when he cannot resist taking part in the fallacies he tries to expose? this is a book clearly launched to service one exclusive audience: if you are a member of the far left who wants their own opinions validated then this book is for you; if, however, you want a balanced overview of the US political landscape against the history of the 20th century steer clear and save yourself the disappointment of reading this abysmal production.

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  • abcd
  • 27-07-17

piercing, insightful and concise

this essay-like commentary was incisive and clear, and provides great historical context to current events.

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  • E. Stamatakis
  • 22-07-17

Excellent historical overview in today's context

Each and every lesson in this book is a prophecy where the world is heading. Very clear ideas with very accurate historical linkage

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  • Andrew Carter
  • 15-06-17

Excellent - no background knowledge needed

As someone with a newfound interest in global politics I found this to be such a great read, particularly because it didn't get bogged down in specific historic events. It didn't require the reader to have any real existing in depth knowledge of history but rather focussed more on the bigger picture patterns and ideas.

I'd recommend it strongly, and point out that he has a very interesting interview with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast that is very suitable 'extra listening' for this audiobook.

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  • Rob
  • 01-06-17

Current, concise and powerful

I can't think of a single more beneficial activity to spend the same amount of time on than reading this book, and then reading it again. The challenge ahead for the struggle against tyranny has become crystal clear for this reader. The author's historical lens provides a compelling comparison to contemporary events. I'll be purchasing a hard copy and fresh highlighter pen.

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  • Nathan
  • 25-01-18

Insultingly Biased.

Snyder uses history to make a point about some things which seemed more likely representative of Hillary Clinton than of Trump himself. He uses the basic that Trump was all evil and hence is able to control the line of thinking that the claims he wants us to use. It provokes thought, however, it's biased.