History does not repeat, but it does instruct. In the twentieth 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 established rule by an elite with a monopoly on truth. 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 twentieth 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.
"We are rapidly ripening for fascism. This American writer leaves us with no illusions about ourselves" -- Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature
Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University, and has written and edited a number of acclaimed and prize-winning books about twentieth-century European history: Bloodlands won the Hannah Arendt Prize, the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award in the Humanities and the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Black Earth was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the annual prize of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee. Snyder is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences, and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research.