Marc Ferro

The Individual and Twentieth-Century Crises Publication date : January 20, 2005

History often seizes anonymous citizens and transforms them, sometimes into heroes, but more frequently into victims. During wartime, the victims may be the inhabitants of border areas, since they have nowhere to escape to. They may be the powerless spectators of the destruction of their familiar world — as was the case of the French settlers in Algeria during the war of independence or, more recently, of the Russians during the collapse of the Soviet empire. But there have also been heroes such as Jan Palach, the symbol of the rebellion of civil society in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era. No one can escape from history, no one is ever free from its developments and its sudden shifts; history is driven by an internal logic that grinds each and every anonymous individual in its wake. It is this logic that Marc Ferro reveals here. He argues that it is often thanks to history that an anonymous individual becomes a major player: what would have been Charles de Gaulle's future without the French debacle of 1940? In this highly readable book, the author helps the reader understand the meaning of history through a series of exceptional individual stories. Marc Ferro is emeritus director of studies at the école des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales. He is notably the author of the highly successful Histoire de France (2001) and Le Choc de l'Islam (2002), both published by Editions Odile Jacob.