Read On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder Online

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

A historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting Americas turn towards authoritarianism.On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for democratic norms and institutions to the height of power.Timothy Snyder is one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. In his books Bloodlands and Black Earth, he has carefully dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.Twenty Lessons is ...

Title : On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
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ISBN : 9780804190114
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 128 pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century Reviews

  • Andy

    If this is the response to creeping fascism in America, we are in trouble.

    (Note: for suggested alternatives see comment stream below.)

    Obviously, Hitler is bad. And some of the advice is unassailable (Contribute to good causes, etc.) But beyond that, the little essays that make up this book seem pretty messy.

    -Before Hitler comes to power, it makes sense to stand up, speak out, etc. But after, it's more about getting out or going underground. If the author really believes that Trump is Hitler and
    ...more

  • Jan Rice

    This book at bottom is a version of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,

    But the times are out of joint, so I forgot--

    It didn't all happen at once. The soil was prepared:

    In my time and place--maybe every time and place--confusion was sown,

    The way to clear thinking not made straight.

    Once we knew, though, that everyone in the class should get a valentine card (if anyone did)

    And everyone should be invited to the birthday party--

    Black, Muslim, the religious in all their denominations
    ...more

  • David Schaafsma



    “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.”--Snyder

    “I love the poorly educated”--Trump

    I carried this little book in my back pocket at the recent Chicago march against the incarceration of children and separation of families policy of the current U. S. administration. It’s a pamphlet written by a Holocaust historian to help us look for and mobilize against fascist tendencies. It contains twenty lessons he has gleaned from his historical study about how a well-educated and highly “developed”
    ...more

  • Matt

    History teaches us the tricks of authoritarians. We can’t allow ourselves to fall for them.

    (from a recent interview with the author; worth reading!)

    Reading this book is imperative. You may not get another chance.

    In twenty small lessons Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale university and specialized in East European history and the holocaust, illustrates how oppressive regimes and authoritarian governments worked in the past and what might be done to avoid and crush them in the present. The
    ...more

  • abby

    I'm going to go a bit against the grain on this one. This book is like the Tuesdays with Morrie version of political activism. Its message boils down to this: Americans are not special; if we don't actively defend our democracy, we can fall into the same trap of authoritarianism that ensnared 20th century Europe (because apparently the lessons we can learn from the 20th century don't include the likes of Pinochet, Castro or the Khmer Rouge). Author Timothy Snyder lists 20 plans of action to "fig ...more

  • Ted

    If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, young Americans will have to know some.

    "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite,

    That ever I was born to set it right."

    Thus Hamlet. Yet he concludes,"Nay, come, let's go together."


    conclusion of Snyder's Epilogue, "History and Liberty"

    NOTE: This is the review which drew me to the book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

    For a real time source for the previously unthi

    Fascists rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth articulated by leaders who claimed to give voice to the people. They put a face on globalization, arguing that its complex challenges were the result of a conspiracy against the nation. Fascists ruled for a decade or two, leaving behind an intact intellectual legacy that grows more relevant by the day …

    We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats. This is a misguided reflex. In fact, the precedent set by the Founders demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.




    Snyder in Lviv, Ukraine, September 2014

    photo by Nataliya Shestakova

    Here are the twenty lessons in their abbreviated form, as "chapter" titles.

    1. Do not obey in advance.

    2. Defend institutions.

    3. Beware the one-party state.

    4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

    5. Remember professional ethics.

    6. Be wary of paramilitaries.

    7. Be reflective if you must be armed.

    8. Stand out.

    9. Be kind to our language.

    10. Believe in truth.

    11. Investigate.

    12. Make eye contact and small talk.

    13. Practice corporeal politics.

    14. Establish a private life.

    15. Contribute to good causes.

    16. Learn from peers in other countries.

    17. Listen for dangerous words.

    18. Be calm when the unthinkable happens.

    19. Be a patriot.

    20. Be as courageous as you can.

    Many of these seem self-explanatory, though Snyder adds much to their meaning that I bet you wouldn't think of. Some of them, too, are rather enigmatic. Snyder gives a very brief summary, fifty words or less, immediately following the "title". This will get you thinking in the right direction. Here's a couple examples:

    4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

    The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

    9. Be kind to our language.

    Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone else is saying. Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books.

    14. Establish a private life.

    Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Tyrants seek the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks.

    19. Be a Patriot.

    Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

    [And to be clear what he means, "Let us begin with what patriotism is not. It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families... It is not patriotic to compare one's search for sexual partners in New York with the military service in Vietnam that one has dodged. It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay... It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators. It is not patriotic to cultivate a relationship with Muammar Gaddafi; or to say that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are superior leaders. It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election. It is not patriotic to cite Russian propaganda at rallies. ...

    The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.

    The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot.]

    Of course the book is crammed with examples of why these rules could have kept individuals safer during the rule of tyranny, and, more important, how recognition of the warning signs could have possibly prevented much of what happened in the twentieth century.

    The narrative here is hardly impersonal. There are references in a great many of the Lessons to "the president" (see just above). Without ever mentioning a name, Snyder's narrative - by naming actual things that have been caused or been said by "the president" and things that occurred, or were said, during "the president's" campaign – leaves no doubt that he's referring to a specific person.

    I'll finish this with Snyder's opening words about one more lesson, perhaps the most disturbing.

    18. Be calm when the unthinkable happens.

    Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right of a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.

    Snyder relates in little more than a page how the burning of the Reichstag on February 27, 1933, (it is now unknown who or what caused the fire) was the beginning of the end for Germany. He quotes Hitler as gloating, "There will be no mercy now. Anyone standing in our way will be cut down." The next day a decree suspended the basic rights of all German citizens; on March 5 the Nazis won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections; on March 23 an "enabling act" was passed, allowing Hitler to rule by decree; a state of emergency was declared. this state of emergency remained in effect until the end of the Second World War.

    So … "when the terrorist attack comes" … will enough citizens not fall for it, will enough citizens resist in whatever way is possible the announced measures to "protect" the country, resist the calling off of elections, the rounding up of dissidents?

    This book may be the most important you will read in the indefinite future. Read it, think, prepare, do. Snyder has excellent suggestions.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Previous review: Poems of Wallace Stevens

    Random review: The Really Big One curiously apposite to the current review … a warning

    Next review: Life from an RNA World The Ancestor Within

    Previous library review: Nations and Nationalism Since 1780

    Next library review: Tales of Hoffman ...more

  • Melora

    Mercy. I don't know how to respond to this book without reference to the current U.S. political situation. Oh well. As Alexander Pope would say, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” so on we go!

    No. Wait. On second thought, let's not be hasty! How 'bout I tell you right now that if you think Trump is doing a bang up job, that if those dingbats in the legislative and judicial branches would just toe the line, our fine leader would have America back on its feet and “Great Again” in no time f
    ...more

  • Bill  Kerwin



    As Duncan Black ("Atrios" at Eschaton) phrased it a few days ago, “I veer from ‘haha Trump's a big dumdum’ to ‘oh shit we're all going to die.’” Is Trump a clown or an autocrat? A buffoon, or a despot-in-training?

    I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I am sure of one thing: for those worried about totalitarianism in the good ole USA, historian Timothy Snyder’s little book On Tyrrany is an excellent guide to what to do and what to watch out for.

    Snyder is an excellent source for such advice, f

    When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official policed and military intermingle, the end has come.
    Second, “13. Pracitice corporeal politics”:
    Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
    On Tyranny is a useful little book, both disturbing and strangely comforting. I’m laughing at Trump less since I read it, and I’m less scared of him too. ...more