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ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

From one of the leading American historians and public intellectuals comes an essential guide to survival and resistance for our time

ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder


Timothy Snyder
  • Imprint: Tim Duggan Books
  • On sale: February 28, 2017
  • Price: $07.99
  • Pages: 128
  • ISBN: 9780804190114
Contact: Dyana Messina
(212) 572-2098

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”

—From On Tyranny

On TyrannyIn just a matter of weeks, the United States has seen unprecedented changes to the fabric of our national and global identity under the presidency of Donald Trump. Under the banner of “America First,” Trump has instituted his own brand of nationalism, bringing fear and anger to millions of its citizens and residents and spreading confusion and despair around the world. As noted historian Timothy Snyder explains, history teaches us that this fear in not unfounded. Democracy can fail and has failed. Through the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, democracies across Europe would yield to fascism, Nazism, and communism. Americans have always held tight to the belief that such regime change can’t happen here—but that is a dangerous illusion. Having spent his career examining the tragedies and atrocities of the twentieth century, Snyder has studied the ways in which shifts and changes, both large and small, have led to the failure of democratic principles and ideals. As he writes, “history does not repeat, but it does instruct”—and we must heed its warnings.

In ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Tim Duggan Books; February 28, 2017), Snyder offers today’s reader a guide to identifying and understanding the frightening parallels that exist between our current reality and the reality faced by Europeans of the twentieth century. But Snyder goes further, using history to show us how to effectively resist and bring about change. ON TYRANNY offers invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come through a series of twenty lessons:

  1. Do not obey in advance.
  2. Defend institutions.
  3. Beware the one-party state.
  4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.
  5. Remember professional ethics.
  6. Be wary of paramilitaries.
  7. Be reflective if you must be armed.
  8. Stand out.
  9. Be kind to our language.
  10. Believe in truth.
  11. Investigate.
  12. Make eye contact and small talk.
  13. Practice corporeal politics.
  14. Establish a private life.
  15. Contribute to good causes.
  16. Learn from peers in other countries.
  17. Listen for dangerous words.
  18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
  19. Be a patriot.
  20. Be as courageous as you can.

Snyder first introduced these lessons in a Facebook post in November 2016 just days after the presidential election. The post has since received more than one million views, having been reposted, republished, and retweeted countless times. Offering frustrated citizens practical advice from our past, adapted for the world of today, ON TYRANNY is essential reading for our troubled times.

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About the Author

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

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