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Old January 16th, 2014, 04:01 PM   #11

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Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
Not in France.

I take it by "great", you're talking about military "greatness" here?
Or political greatness, or philosophical greatness. Any type of greatness really.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 04:26 PM   #12

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One thing to postulate on the topic of discovering ''great men'' is many great men aren't regard as great men in the era they have inhabited in for various reasons. The views of ''great men'' may be too radical or dissimilar to the prevalent ideas of that time period. An appreciation may arise for them when people posthumously begin to develop a new perspective on that person as they gained a deep understanding of their influence. So there may be chance we are living in an era of ''great man'' we just fail to realize them.

For example according to this documentary (at 40.31) one of the greatest and influential philosopher Confucius in the world died knowing he was a failure in his goal.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un_TQumIx3E]Biography _ Confucius - YouTube[/ame]
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Old January 16th, 2014, 04:48 PM   #13

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Structuralism vs individualism is a fundamental debate in historical theory. The subject is huge and still debated, and it includes most schools of historical thought, so it is difficult to point to any conclusive arguments.

However, when talking about a particular historical event, for example like the German invasion of France 1940, you have to ask yourself which factors were important in the German success, which factors played a part on the defeat of the Allies? There is literally tonnes of literature on the subject of German strategy and tactics, about technical developments, about French political strife, about poor cooperation among the Allies, and about the individuals that played a part, not unsurprisingly there is a great deal of literature on many of the German commanders involved. And most of them make a very good case, so it is not possibly outright to dismiss any of those factors, and bear in mind I have just mentioned those I could think of off the top of my head, there are many more.

Now, I get the feeling that your intention with your OP is something along the lines of "If there had only been some great men amongst the French at that time they could have turned the tides and won".

Firstly it is a discussion on its own what constitutes a "great man"? The answer that "we know a great man by his deeds" can be tricky because in history often the particulars about specific events can be questioned, based on interpretation of sources.

Secondly if we consider particular instances where, what I assume you would categorise "great men" appeared, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Geronimo, and others, structuralists would be interested in which factors in society, broader structures, economical, cultural, geographical, anything, depending on which school they adhere to, which contributed to the appearance, or the education, opportunity or necessity or something else of those great men.

I know I am describing the positions in black and white, which they rarely are, but roughly the differences would be that some see the brilliant genius of Julius Caesar conquering Gaul as part of his genius ambition to become master of Rome, some see the Republic of Rome as a dynamic state with an incredible military capability and a need for economic growth through conquest which would make the conquest of its neighbours outside of Italy a likely outcome.

My point is that while it is exciting to narrate the deeds of these great men, in Western culture we have a long tradition of extolling the virtues of such heroes, there are certainly a lot of other factors at play when it comes to history. A good story teller can make a great man out of anybody, perhaps to such an extent that we may forget that that is far from what history is about.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 10:30 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Apachewarlord View Post
And that's what I've always thought but we can look through history and see this to be false. Where were the great men when Rome fell? Why were there few great men when France was conquered by the Germans?
"Why were there few great men when France was conquered by the Germans?"

de Gaulle?, Jean Monnet?, Jean Moulin?.

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 10:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gudenrath View Post
Structuralism vs individualism is a fundamental debate in historical theory. The subject is huge and still debated, and it includes most schools of historical thought, so it is difficult to point to any conclusive arguments.

However, when talking about a particular historical event, for example like the German invasion of France 1940, you have to ask yourself which factors were important in the German success, which factors played a part on the defeat of the Allies? There is literally tonnes of literature on the subject of German strategy and tactics, about technical developments, about French political strife, about poor cooperation among the Allies, and about the individuals that played a part, not unsurprisingly there is a great deal of literature on many of the German commanders involved. And most of them make a very good case, so it is not possibly outright to dismiss any of those factors, and bear in mind I have just mentioned those I could think of off the top of my head, there are many more.

Now, I get the feeling that your intention with your OP is something along the lines of "If there had only been some great men amongst the French at that time they could have turned the tides and won".

Firstly it is a discussion on its own what constitutes a "great man"? The answer that "we know a great man by his deeds" can be tricky because in history often the particulars about specific events can be questioned, based on interpretation of sources.

Secondly if we consider particular instances where, what I assume you would categorise "great men" appeared, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Geronimo, and others, structuralists would be interested in which factors in society, broader structures, economical, cultural, geographical, anything, depending on which school they adhere to, which contributed to the appearance, or the education, opportunity or necessity or something else of those great men.

I know I am describing the positions in black and white, which they rarely are, but roughly the differences would be that some see the brilliant genius of Julius Caesar conquering Gaul as part of his genius ambition to become master of Rome, some see the Republic of Rome as a dynamic state with an incredible military capability and a need for economic growth through conquest which would make the conquest of its neighbours outside of Italy a likely outcome.

My point is that while it is exciting to narrate the deeds of these great men, in Western culture we have a long tradition of extolling the virtues of such heroes, there are certainly a lot of other factors at play when it comes to history. A good story teller can make a great man out of anybody, perhaps to such an extent that we may forget that that is far from what history is about.
Gudenrath,

we recently discussed that item here on the forum: great men versus great tendencies...have to seek where...and I introduced the similarity to the "nature versus nurture" debate ...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 10:56 AM   #16
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It all depends on who we consider "great men", and certain historical periods are more mythologized than others. We hear more about WW2, so we're more familiar with leaders of that conflict than we are with WW1.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 01:30 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Tripwire View Post
I, personally, am highly skeptical of the "great men" concept, in any context. Great men are often the result of great self-marketing.
Exactly, and when you get past the marketing what exactly is left? I'm thinking particularly of Napoleon but there are others too such as Alexander and Hannibal (whom David referred to in his great painting of Napoleon, a painting that Napoleon did not sit for).

Last edited by Boethus; January 17th, 2014 at 01:31 PM. Reason: changed which to whom, although which may possibly be more accurate
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Old January 17th, 2014, 01:42 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Apachewarlord View Post
I've often wondered this. For example I've been studying the founding fathers late me and have been struck by the massive amount of brilliant and capable men in this time period, and was wondering why so many came about at the same time. At first my answer to this was that because it was such a great time, great men were needed. However, reflecting on this I saw that the holes in this argument are infinite. Let's take WW1 and WWII for example. At the time both of these were the greatest wars in history, a great time indeed. However, WWI is noted for it's considerable lack of great men, while WWII has an abundance of them. So why do large groups of great men appear at the same time, while other times have a drought of these men? Why does a single great man appear sometimes, when there are no other great men around?
There were very interesting figures that lived through those periods among them:
Mahatma Gandhi, Alexandra David-Nel, H.G. Wells,T.E. Lawrence, Captain Cromie.

Last edited by Yḥānān; January 17th, 2014 at 01:48 PM.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 01:48 PM   #19

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I think this is all down to appearances. When there's no drama, we simply don't see any great men, because there is no drama to attract our attention. It's kind of like the news. A man is a hero when he stops a robbery by overpowering the criminal, it's big drama, good stuff for the headlines. But nobody's interested in hearing about the guy who stopped 10 robberies by being a good parent or teacher or something like that. It's all about drama and flash.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 11:45 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Edgewaters View Post
I think this is all down to appearances. When there's no drama, we simply don't see any great men, because there is no drama to attract our attention. It's kind of like the news. A man is a hero when he stops a robbery by overpowering the criminal, it's big drama, good stuff for the headlines. But nobody's interested in hearing about the guy who stopped 10 robberies by being a good parent or teacher or something like that. It's all about drama and flash.
I think Edgewaters is right. In order to have "great" leaders, you need to have dramatic times that give them that reputation. Competence in times of stability is going to be seen as just that, competence, at best.

At the same time, these competent leaders aren't destined to appear, instead, the people in charge during a crisis could completely screw their country over. Or maybe they did the best they were able to, but the situation was hopeless from the beginning. We can never be sure. The point is that "greatness" from a military or political viewpoint at least, is entirely dependent on circumstance.
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