Nigel Cawthorne is the author of over a hundred books, from serious political works such as The Iron Cage to lightweight comic romps such as Sex Lives of the Popes. Sex Lives of the Presidents got him on the Joan Rivers Show. He was hauled in front of a Senate Select Committee for The Bamboo Cage. And "Read this book." was the last line of the Washington Post's review of his book Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. So there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.
This book claims to be a "study in depravity" that "delves into the darkest recesses of the minds of the most vile men and women ever to seize power." However, many of the leaders described in this book were merely unpopular monarchs or absolute rulers who never did anything that can truly be called "evil". While the amount of people covered is impressive, some obvious choices for this book, such as Mullah Omar or Kim Jong-Il, are puzzlingly left out.
Overall, Tyrants is more of a casual survey of authoritarian rulers throughout history than an honest attempt to examine power and evil.
You would give this book to a child to read on this subject.
What the book needs is a definition of what to the writer, defines a tyrant! Without such a definition, all we have is an odd list of names with a brief description of each of their lives. Some are strange for example Elizabeth Báthory was not a ruler, a better description of her would be mass murderer. I was wondering why some like Louis XVI got on the list whereas Louis XIV did not? Who's who on the listing is all arbitrary.
One point I did notice is how few tyrants were punished for their crimes. Most of them got away with their crimes.
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