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How to Be a Dictator


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From the Samuel Johnson prize-winning author of Mao's Great Famine, a timely and compelling exploration of the cult of personality that surrounded eight twentieth century dictators

About the Author

Frank Dikoetter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His books have changed the way historians view China, from the classic The Discourse of Race in Modern China to his award-winning People's Trilogy documenting the lives of ordinary people under Mao. He is married and lives in Hong Kong.


Essential reading ... The standalone portraits of his eight dictators are riveting -- Justin Marozzi * Evening Standard, 'Book of the Week' *
How to be a dictator? Ruthlessness matters a lot more than talent, but luck most of all. That is the upshot of Frank Dikoetter's elegant and readable study of the cult of personality in the 20th century ... [Dikoetter's] penmanship and eye for anecdote brings [the dictators] to life * The Times *
A whistlestop tour of some of the most infamous leaders of the 20th century ... What Dikoetter does so well is to find the pathological and ideological connections among leaders who "teetered between hubris and paranoia" * Observer *
Frank Dikoetter provides a timely reminder of just how destructive toxic insecurity, and its corollary, pathological narcissism, can become ... In terms of the dynamics of narcissistic authoritarianism, there is much in How to Be a Dictator that is of critical contemporary relevance ... History only makes sense if we understand the psychological pathology that underlies it, and our own propensity for partaking in such pathology. We need a clear-eyed understanding of history as a recurring series of monumental follies, led by cretins who duped or forced millions of us into humiliating childish submission. Only then can we hope to avoid the repetition. Dikoetter is in the vanguard of historians opening our eyes to this fundamental truth * Irish Times *
A heroic piece of research ... Devastating in every sense of the word -- Praise for 'Mao's Great Famine' * Economist *
Ground-breaking ... Unsparing in its detail, relentless in its research, unforgiving in its judgements ... Dikoetter's achievement in this book is remarkable -- Praise for 'The Tragedy of Liberation' * Sunday Times *
Definitive and harrowing -- praise for 'The Cultural Revolution', Book of the Week * Daily Mail *
Dikoetter never allows his intense account to degenerate into melodrama ... Fascinating -- praise for 'The Cultural Revolution' * Daily Telegraph *
Magnificent ... The author gives full acknowledgement to memoirs and scholarly works but it is his own archival research, allied to a piercing critique, that lifts the book to a higher level. He has mastered the details so well that with the most sparing use of description he weaves a vivid tapestry of China at the time ...Brilliant -- praise for 'The Cultural Revolution' * Sunday Times *

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