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Titans of History: The Giants Who Made Our World

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  75 reviews
In this inspiring, horrifying, and accessible collection of short, entertaining, and vivid life stories, Simon Sebag Montefiore--one of our pre-eminent historians and a prizewinning writer--presents the giant characters who have changed the course of world history.

These titans of history--encompassing queens, empresses, and actresses, kings, sultans, and conquerors, as wel
Paperback, 640 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Vintage (first published June 2012)
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This Vintage paperback original published just published this October is the kind of thing people slaving away in their individual silos might like to read in snatches to put major figures in history in their proper perspective. I always wanted something like this when I was learning history: ordinarily we look individually at parts of the world. This book integrates history.

Each figure Montefiore chooses to introduce ordinarily gets a page or two. This is just enough to tell the major contribut
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit more than just a dictionary of biography, but I found his portraits rather dull and lacking massive insight. At times I felt I'd have been better off reading the Wikipedia pages of the persons covered here, which is pretty sad really.
Quintin Zimmermann
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Titans of History is literally a chronological collection of abridged biographies averaging three pages per "titan". Three pages, really?

I have no idea how this format is suppose to provide any real insight into any person. The sad truth that there is far more information available on Wikipedia and while not an accurate font of information, at least Wikipedia cites and references its sources.

A dull, insubstantial snapshot of our history as human beings on a planet that deserves far better.
Shabbeer Hassan
A long book with biographies, and what's hugely disappointing is instead of focussing on the bigger picture, we get short digests on each of these "titans". And I thought no one reads or even needs the Encyclopedia Britannica!

My Rating - 2/5
Pamela ✨I Blame Wizards✨
I would have gotten more out of Titans of History if I had just been handed a typed page of all the names included in the book and then gone on to read the Wikipedia entry on each of them on my own. The short biographies are, of course, well written, but why anyone thought it would be a good idea to distill these people's lives into little more than three pages apiece is beyond me. It lacks depth, information, and consequently, interest.

Titans of History is the kind of book that will find itself
Fabienne Schwizer
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
— DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-arc of this book via NetGalley - thank you to NetGalley and Vintage! All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I should also add that I am a trained historian and as such will likely be biased in reviewing a history book. —

When I first found out that I would be reviewing a book written by Simon Sebag Montefiore, I couldn’t contain my excitement, as back when I was a baby student and wrote my very first history paper for university, his book on Stalin and
Christie Angleton
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
So. Many. DUDES. Where are Marie Curie? Amelia Earhart? Malala? This bro fest wears me out.
Noah Goats
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
The fact that it’s taken me over three months to read this not particularly long book should tell you all you need to know about it. Titans of History is kind of boring. The blurb from the Sunday Telegraph on my copy says, “Entertaining and informative. Full off offbeat, fascinating detail.” That blurb is way off. It is not entertaining and there are no offbeat or fascinating details. And for the “titans” you already know a bit about, it isn’t informative either. It reads like a collection of co ...more
Greta Belo
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An easy and amusing read for a history book. Although you can't expect it to give in-depth knowledge about the great people in human history, it's a nice peek into who they were and what they've done to be immortalised and remembered by many. And it's not your typical list of historical greats, too. I highly recommend this book for history lovers/enthusiasts.:)
2.5 stars.

This was average to me. I found myself skipping a lot of the people listed in this book as I wasn't really interested in them. This tended to be the more military/political individuals featured. The artists and writers were really enjoyable to read.

The writing at times through me off. Some biographies would be incredibly factual and unbiased and then others would be very opinionated and I would have preferred one or the other. I also felt that the writing itself was not as engaging as
*Initial impressions 20% in.
I think this would have been better if it was organised by region, rather than by date. Jumping from Greece to China then to Judea then back to Greece does not lend itself to a read through style (compared to a reference book or a dip in resource).

Aside from that preference for more thematic groupings - I don't mind the short biography style for filling historical knowledge gaps, or identifying characters for further reading. Montefiore does a good job of summarisin
Alexandra Alexyna
History combined with a lot of legends
Jaan Liitmäe
Good quick overview in general but somehow with the emphasis on mass-murderers. Quite spooky stuff therefore. Few stories about certain personalities gave good hints for next full biographies to look for.
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Titans of History" by Simon Sebag Montefiore and a team comprising John Bew, Martyn Frampton, Dan Jones and Claudia Renton, is a compelling collection of short essays on great figures of antiquity and history. Ranging from Rameses the Great to Osama Ben Ladin, from David the King to Aung San Suu Kyi, the narrative keeps us wondering at the lives of those Titans, and that of ordinary people in their time.
The risk of such undertaking is that of kitsch: we have some knowledge of the subject matter
Sam Law
Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read

This book roves the centuries, and chooses characters that have been hugely influential in the world, both in their own time, and some whose lives still have echoes today.

Main Characters:
Throw a dart into the world’s timeline, and you most likely will hit upon a name you recognise, and that is in the book!

Minor Characters:
The millions (billions?) of people throughout the centuries, all now forgotten apart from being a statistic,
Daniel Kukwa
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As both of a lover of & a teacher of history, I look for two things from any book claiming to be a useful, general primer on the subject: (1) is it as informative & accurate as possible in a concise word count, and (2) is it witty and entertaining. Thankfully, Mr. Montefiore's volume succeeds on both counts, and it will now take pride of place as one of my go-to history resources. Then again, I'd expect nothing less from the author of the sublime biography of "Jerusalem".
The premise is a good one, but the biographies were very short, with not enough information. It may have been better if more information was given and maybe the book was divided into 2. It felt like there is more information via the various search engines available on the internet. The author gave a good effort. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What historian Simon Sebag Montefiore has done with TITANS OF HISTORY: THE GIANTS WHO MADE OUR WORLD is remarkable, to say the least. He has managed to provide what seems to be a trove of biographical information in vignette-ish form, compiling about 200 biographical profiles of famous royals, heroes, politicians, artists, cretins, jerks and geniuses in a compact, encyclopedic volume. “My aim is that these short accessible and vivid biographies will encourage and inspire readers to find out more ...more
Zeb Kantrowitz
this was a free book from NetGalley
Review of "Titans of History" by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Sebag Montefiore is an historian that I consider a writer for non-academics. That doesn’t mean that he writes simplistically, it means that he doesn’t write pedantically. His books on Catherine the Great, the Romanovs and Stalin, are detailed but not overburdened by statistics and grandiosity, but still in-depth studies.

This book is a compilation of short biographies of people that Sebag Montefiore conten
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Simon Sebag Montefiore has been one of my favorite historical nonfiction writers for some time now. I have always enjoyed his previous work and so I was sad to be a little disappointed in Titans of History.

This book gives fairly abridged biographies of some of the great names in history but I found there to be a disparity. Most of the book focuses on men; few women or POC get a mention here (though perhaps, that is not surprising given the lack of attention paid them throughout history). Also, w
Casey Wheeler
This book is what I expected - short breezy biographical sketches of those the author felt made significant impacts on the history of the world. As with any book of this type one can argue about whether or not some of the individuals included made a more significant impact than some of those who were left out of the book. The style makes it an easy read, but the amount of people covered does not lead to a quick read.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants a once over lightly description of so
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. At a page or so for each person covered in the book, you don't get bogged down with too much detail. However, the reason that I didn't give it more stars is because of that very reason. You don't get much detail for each person.

I think that Montefiore accomplished exactly what he wanted to do. He marched through history and touched on many of the most influential personalities that made our world what it is today. I have since done several internet searches on people to whom
Laura Newsholme
Unfortunately, I have a lot of issues with this book that have made it a pretty unpleasant reading experience. While I accept that any book of this nature will automatically leave a lot of people out and will ultimately be unsatisfying to many for this reason, I found the choices for exclusion here particularly worrying. The book focuses primarily on white, European men with very little exploration of indigenous persons or women. There also seems to be a large number of military personalities an ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction, kindle
Potted histories of done of the great men and women from history; from Rameses and Solomon to Elvis and Osama bin Laden , this is only short portraits, but still manage to convey quite a lot. One can of course quibble about the selection (neither Pompey not Socrates made the cut, but Thatcher and Anne Frank did.) The focus is on Anglo-Saxon authors, thinkers and fighters, but Montefiores interest in Stalin shows up as a strong emphasis on early 20th century Russians. There are also notable state ...more
The potted bios of historical figures are great and inform you of figures well known and lesser known, even on better known figures the histories included will provide you with facts that you may not be aware of.
However, this is a personal selection by the author and towards the end some of the figures included seem to be here based solely on the author’s political preference. Mrs Thatcher is the key figure in modern British history but has no place in a list of key figures in world history and
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is like a biographical dictionary presenting the most interesting stories of people listed as titans in history. One thing I like in this book is the way the descriptions are written. Written in plain language, this book allows you to get a glimpse of what a character life was. However, since the descriptions are just short I ended up wanting to know more. I think if would be better if the list is a bit shorter and description is longer; that way we can get to understand the character ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not particularly well written; my edition was full of grammatical errors and typos; the same words are used over and over again. I was getting very frustrated with little contradictions between the chapters until I realised there were actually several contributors, hence the chapters didn’t always “talk” to each other. Having said that, if you’re like me and largely clueless about world history, but wanting to know more, this format is an excellent place to start. A hundred or two brief biograph ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Honestly, I really felt like this book could have been more thorough. Yes, there were a ton of people included but the author’s preference for middle eastern heads of government was very apparent. There were very few “ordinary” people included. There wasn’t anything about anyone who contributed to the things we use every day like electricity, transportation, etc. Yes, Louis Pasteur was included but he was a rare exception.

Also, if you don’t like British authors who write about American history,
Dagmar Egen
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A facinating book, filled with over 200 historical giants that influenced and changed the world.
Short but well written biographies in chronological order make this a go to book for succinct information about each individual. Good diversity of titans, from Ramases to Osama bin Laden date wise, great to see the inclusion of notable women and the recognition due to Elvis as a significant change agent.
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Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the global bestsellers 'The Romanovs' and 'Jerusalem: the Biography,' 'Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter and "Red Sky at Noon." His books are published in 48 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He has won prizes in both non-fiction and fiction. He read history at Gonville and Caius Colleg ...more

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