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VIRTUAL TALK: “Men on Horseback” with David A. Bell
March 31, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$10.00
MEN ON HORSEBACK
The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution
George Washington. Napoleon Bonaparte. Toussaint Louverture. Simon Bolivar. If the revolutionary world wanted to do without kings and queens, who would lead? Without divine right, what would give leaders their authority? Military valor? The consent of the people? Their own Godlike qualities? These four “men on horseback” all struggled with this question. They were all idolized at the time and had great influence over others. They also learned from each other. In this thought-provoking survey of political charisma, David Bell makes the case that there is, and always has been, a vanishingly thin line between charismatic democratic rulers and charismatic authoritarians. Corisca’s Pasquale Paoli, an icon of republican virtue, would influence both Washington’s America and Bonaparte’s France. In turn, while Bonaparte exalted Washington, he fashioned an entirely different form of leadership for himself and eventually betrayed Louverture who tried to make the French Revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality a reality for the formerly enslaved people of what would become Haiti. And, Bolivar, who fought to liberate Latin America from Spanish rule, later sought refuge there. By examining the power of charisma in the age of revolution, we can see how it can threaten democracy’s durability and appeal or be an animating force for good in politics—at any time.
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