Great Man History

Is great man theory the best theory of history?

  • Yes obviously

    Votes: 5 62.5%
  • No, I don’t like the truth so refuse to accept it

    Votes: 3 37.5%

  • Total voters
    8

FriedCFour

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So this is a thread to talk about great man history and why its objectively the best theory of history, or if you disagree and subscribe to something wrong, you could try and argue something incorrect.
 

FriedCFour

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If you need a read up on what great man theory is here you go.


To talk a little bit about great man theory, first I should explain it in the simplest terms. It’s not the theory that only great men matter and no one else has any impact, but rather that the higher your station and ability in society the greater impact you have on it. To me it’s exceedingly obvious this is the case. To use just one example, let’s look at William the Conqueror. He originated as William the Bastard, rose in station to become Duke of Normandy, and from there conquered England. This conquest had as much shaping of the modern English language as Shakespeare arguably given that he spoke French, installed Norman French speaking nobles into the upper echelons, and with this it’s inarguably a top down impact on the language. It is impossible to say this flowed from the bottom up. With English being such an incredibly widespread language, his impact is undeniable on the history of the world and on one of our most basic functions of every day life, talking. Pretty much anyone who replies to this thread even in argument will be engaging with and using the developments of history that he and he alone brought to history in our language. So interestingly, whether you agree or disagree with great man theory, any argument you bring to me in this language is inherently evidence supporting my argument.
 

Urabrask Revealed

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Err, isn't that theory obvious? If scientists could refute it, the theory would be either a hypothesis or some other theory would take its place. Why are there people denying it to be true or fact?
 

LordsFire

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With the definition you used, I wouldn't say that 'great man theory' is wrong, but I'd definitely say it's incomplete.

Individual men who accomplish great things tend to be catalysts for change. William the Conqueror could never have become 'The Conqueror' if he had not existed in a culture where military prowess and conquest was seen as desireable. He inarguably made an immense amount of mileage out of that, and almost certainly intensified the cultural interest in such, but if he'd been born into a pacifistic society that considered art, preaching, or mercantile success the greater things to be sought after, his life would have been very different.

The 'great man' idea tends to promote the concept and idea that if you aren't of high station, you won't accomplish much. That's the perception people tend to have of it, whether it's fair or not.

In contrast to this, Abraham Lincoln was literally born in a log cabin to a family of no great repute, and he rose to be one of the most pivotal figures in human history. He became a great man, and in a way that supports the theory you have expressed, but it also makes it somewhat moot, because he proved that most anyone can become someone of high social station.

What's the point of the theory then, if (most) anyone can become the 'great man' that it talks about?
 

Random Username

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The way I see the great man is opportunity and who the figure got a base of support to work with.

Individual men who accomplish great things tend to be catalysts for change. William the Conqueror could never have become 'The Conqueror' if he had not existed in a culture where military prowess and conquest was seen as desireable. He inarguably made an immense amount of mileage out of that, and almost certainly intensified the cultural interest in such, but if he'd been born into a pacifistic society that considered art, preaching, or mercantile success the greater things to be sought after, his life would have been very different.
All too true.
 

FriedCFour

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Individual men who accomplish great things tend to be catalysts for change. William the Conqueror could never have become 'The Conqueror' if he had not existed in a culture where military prowess and conquest was seen as desireable. He inarguably made an immense amount of mileage out of that, and almost certainly intensified the cultural interest in such, but if he'd been born into a pacifistic society that considered art, preaching, or mercantile success the greater things to be sought after, his life would have been very different.
See that’s what everyone does to argue against it, starts going into the realm of supposing and theorizing about some made up reality that doesn’t even exist. Making up something entirely fake that’s totally and completely irrelevant.

The 'great man' idea tends to promote the concept and idea that if you aren't of high station, you won't accomplish much. That's the perception people tend to have of it, whether it's fair or not.
Well yes, because you won’t. At least, you aren’t likely to be all that noteworthy to history.

In contrast to this, Abraham Lincoln was literally born in a log cabin to a family of no great repute, and he rose to be one of the most pivotal figures in human history. He became a great man, and in a way that supports the theory you have expressed, but it also makes it somewhat moot, because he proved that most anyone can become someone of high social station.
thats entirely and completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter where you started originally. In fact, Napoleon is one of the go tos for great man theory, who started as minor Corsican nobility, and rose to become the terror of Europe through the ranks of the military from the bottom of the officer corps on up. It’s irrelevant whether you are self made or not, I used William the Conqueror because he made his way up as well.

What's the point of the theory then, if (most) anyone can become the 'great man' that it talks about?
The point is essentially to argue that history largely flows from top to bottom, that leaders are incredibly important to humanity, that we tend to follow hierarchy and that those with high station and impact are the primary drivers of history, and also that human being trend towards hero worship.
 

Lord Invictus

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Think of history like a mud slab, the more important a person is-the larger their footprint in the slab. That's why Alexander, Napoleon, and Caesar are all so centralized in most history. Because their footprint was bigger than most other people.

Great Man theory doesn't deny that social and economic forces are important, or that there are some things bigger than individuals, it simply says some people have greater impacts than others.

We talk about Alexander, not the Macedonian Phalangite who was on campaign with him all the way from the Hellespont to Babylon. To be sure, we can learn a lot by studying the phalangite-Macedonian society at the lower level, the social life of Alexander's men, their world, hopes, dreams and attitudes, but without Alexander the phalangite doesn't matter really.
 

LordsFire

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See that’s what everyone does to argue against it, starts going into the realm of supposing and theorizing about some made up reality that doesn’t even exist. Making up something entirely fake that’s totally and completely irrelevant.


Well yes, because you won’t. At least, you aren’t likely to be all that noteworthy to history.


thats entirely and completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter where you started originally. In fact, Napoleon is one of the go tos for great man theory, who started as minor Corsican nobility, and rose to become the terror of Europe through the ranks of the military from the bottom of the officer corps on up. It’s irrelevant whether you are self made or not, I used William the Conqueror because he made his way up as well.


The point is essentially to argue that history largely flows from top to bottom, that leaders are incredibly important to humanity, that we tend to follow hierarchy and that those with high station and impact are the primary drivers of history, and also that human being trend towards hero worship.
Except the leaders you're talking about bucked the hierarchy that existed to at least some degree in order to get on top, and then use that to their advantage.

Note, I'm not saying humans don't follow hierarchy. I'm saying that a lot of the major movers and shakers defied the limitations of the place they started at in the hierarchy in order to become those movers and shakers.

Meritocratic tendencies in society make it easier for movers and shakers to get to where they can accomplish the most. The way that you've stated the above, doesn't encourage the kind of attitude that helps with that.

Part of why America has become so dominant, is a strong cultural tendency towards, and to approve of, the attitude of 'You're all doing it wrong, so I'll start my own shop/business/factory/invention and do it right!' Of course, the approval only generally comes in any serious quantity when those people are actually right, but so many other cultures would suppress the push to even try.

As I said, I think the points you've made are fairly accurate, but aren't giving a complete picture.
 

Prince Ire

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Think of history like a mud slab, the more important a person is-the larger their footprint in the slab. That's why Alexander, Napoleon, and Caesar are all so centralized in most history. Because their footprint was bigger than most other people.

Great Man theory doesn't deny that social and economic forces are important, or that there are some things bigger than individuals, it simply says some people have greater impacts than others.

We talk about Alexander, not the Macedonian Phalangite who was on campaign with him all the way from the Hellespont to Babylon. To be sure, we can learn a lot by studying the phalangite-Macedonian society at the lower level, the social life of Alexander's men, their world, hopes, dreams and attitudes, but without Alexander the phalangite doesn't matter really.
Of course, a social historian might respond right back that without the phalangites, Alexander doesn't matter.
 

Knowledgeispower

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One only needs to look at the Mongol Empire to see the impact of one great man can have on history and moreover his entire society and countless others...say what you want about Genghis Khan but the man made his impact on history
 

Lord Invictus

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Of course, a social historian might respond right back that without the phalangites, Alexander doesn't matter.
The question then, is which matters more? Alexander couldn't conquer the Persian Empire on his own, and the Macedonian Phalangite wasn't going to either. They needed each other. But we must ask, which is more important in the broad scope of history?
 

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The question then, is which matters more? Alexander couldn't conquer the Persian Empire on his own, and the Macedonian Phalangite wasn't going to either. They needed each other. But we must ask, which is more important in the broad scope of history?
Everything great man for the face and base for how to achieve it.
 

Lanmandragon

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The question then, is which matters more? Alexander couldn't conquer the Persian Empire on his own, and the Macedonian Phalangite wasn't going to either. They needed each other. But we must ask, which is more important in the broad scope of history?
Clearly Alex since the phaliginetes existed before and after Alex. Yet never manged to do anything approaching Alex's conquests. In fact what they mostly did was get stomped on by Rome. The Macedonia phalanx without Alex is good but not a worldshaker.
 
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