Fab Five Series (Me first): A Khan, Rousseau, Orwell, a Sex Machine and The Greatest

Sgt. Pepper's album cover. A work of art in and of itself. More than five people, but a good example of what I'd like from you.

Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. A work of art in and of itself. More than five people, but a good example of what I’d like from you.

When I was younger, my father would ask friends and acquaintances to name their five favorite historical figures. He didn’t require an answer straight away. You could go home and think about it and get back to him. He said you could tell a lot about a person by the answers they gave. Some people would put so much time and effort into their answer with lengthy justifications. Tedious care would be taken to select the perfect five. Others? Not so much.

I’ve been mulling over a way to incorporate this icebreaker into my blog. Then it hit me. I’ll ask other writers to play along. That’s where you come in! If you’d like to participate it’s simple. First you select the five historical figures you want to include. The criteria for selection is completely up to you.

My father chose people who were larger than life, people who impressed upon him when he was younger what the meaning of greatness was, people who are known by one name! Beethoven, Napoleon, Einstein. My wife chose people she’d like to talk to or have a drink with, people with something to tell or something to hide. Lee Harvery Oswald, Anastasia Romanov, Salvador Dali.

Once you’ve chosen your Fab Five you need to do the writeup. It should be six paragraphs or so. In the first paragraph tell us who you are, what interest you have in history, any work that you do that you’d like mentioned and/or linked to (your blog, Twitter handle, whatever…) and, most importantly, what you’re criteria for selection is. Then you’ll give a paragraph on each of the five, explaining why you chose them or what significance they have. The paragraphs can be as short or long as you like them. You don’t need to give a bio of the person unless you feel it’s needed.

You e-mail it all to me and I’ll do the rest. Include any image that you want to use for the person if you think it’ll be hard for me to scrounge one up. Also include any links to any work of yours you may want mentioned as well as any contact info or social media. You can include a picture of yourself if you like.


I’m hoping this fosters discussion as well as serving as a platform to cross-promote our work or hobbies. Plus, you’re writing my blog for me!

I’ll post one a week until the well runs dry.

Now for my Fab Five

Hi, my name is Aaron. I have a history blog called Yesterday Unhinged. I’ve always loved history from an early age. My father would tell me stories about the Peloponnesian War, Napoleon, Picasso…you name it. It was the only subject that I would consistently receive passable grades in. I had a tendency to read my history book straight through like a novel, regardless of the lesson plan. I’ve been working a monotonous job lately and sought refuge in podcasts. I’ve wanted to do one myself, but with the impending birth of my first child (who’s already here), I decided a blog would be a bit more manageable. My criteria for selection was difficult to identify. I decided to pick a single person from the five areas of culture / human experience that have had the biggest impact on my life. I think the person chosen might not be my favorite, but would be the most interesting. I’ve listed them in chronological order.

Genghis Khan. 14th century, artist unknown.

Genghis Khan. 14th century, artist unknown.

Ghengis Khan

I felt I needed to select someone from what history stood for when I was a kid…before all the PC, feelgood history took over (I’m being mildly sarcastic). I needed someone who symbolized warfare, conquest and destruction. Is there anyone better than the leader of the Mongols, the man who laid the groundwork for the largest land empire in history? I had to do a biography on a historical figure when I was around 13 and haphazardly chose the great khan. I was instantly mesmerized. Then, in recent years, to hear Dan Carlin’s treatment of the subject on his Hardcore History podcast only cemented his status in my mind. The scourge of all things civilized and one of the greatest military tacticians in history.

Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, date unknown.

Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, date unknown.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I needed someone to fill the slot for critical thinking in my Fab Five, and Rousseau fit the bill for me. He had a stronger influence over me in my early 20’s than he does now. Nevertheless, I’ve always been fascinated by the man. He wrote operas and was a musical theorist. His Social Contract begins with,

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”

The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the world’s first true autobiography and was scandalous for its time. He also has numerous works and quotes which speak to my inner primitivist. A true Renaissance man.

George Orwell, 1933.

George Orwell, 1933.

George Orwell

I’ve chosen Orwell because he perfectly bridges two of my main interests, writing and politics. He fought for what he believed in, having been wounded during the Spanish Civil War fighting fascism. Some feel his untimely early death was attributable to complications from his wounds suffered in Spain. His Homage to Catalonia was one of a long list of influences that saw me move to Barcelona for five years. I’m a huge fan of dystopian fiction and Orwell’s 1984 is by far the most well-known,  though it isn’t my favorite. The book even gave birth to a new adjective based on the man’s name: Orwellian.

James Brown, February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs via Wikimedia Commons.

James Brown, February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs via Wikimedia Commons.

James Brown

Music has had a massive influence on my life. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to records with my mom. In my teenage years, hip hop became a way of life. I’ve listened to and loved all manner of music. I’ve rapped, played bass, organized music festivals and gigs in basements and my life wouldn’t be the same without it. It was hard to chose a single musician. Having been a massive hip hop head, but feeling that no rapper, dead or alive, fit my criteria for inclusion, I’ve decided to go with James Brown. I listen to him at least once a week. His samples litter rap music from my childhood. And when I think of entertainment as a whole, there’s no better entertainer than “the Hardest Working Man in Show Businees.” We drank all day the day he died.

Muahammad Ali, the champ.

Muahammad Ali, the champ.

Muhammad Ali

Again, this is a choice to symbolize an entire grouping. I’ve been an avid sports fan since I was a little kid. I would watch anything sports related and could watch for hours on end. I played baseball and basketball. Sports I follow now include football (American), basketball, football (Euro), baseball, football (Australian) and MMA. I’ve chosen a boxer, though. My family has a boxing background. We’d watch the fights all the time and my great uncle was the heavyweight champ of California in his day. I couldn’t pass up Ali, one of the most transcendental athletes of our times. He’s still alive, but seeing as he’s not adding to his legacy, I could see past it. He’s another one who stood up for what he believed in, refusing to go to Vietnam. The image of him standing over Sony Liston with his arm crossed is one of the most iconic photos ever. He was the original GOAT, Greatest of All Time.

13 thoughts on “Fab Five Series (Me first): A Khan, Rousseau, Orwell, a Sex Machine and The Greatest

  1. Reblogged this on If it happened yesterday, it's History and commented:
    Yesterday Unhinged is one of my favourite new blogs. Aaron who runs it is very well researched and chooses topic that I wish I had thought of……He has opened up his latest blog for readers to participate in. Stay tuned Aaron, my “Fab Five” is just around the corner !!!!

  2. seanmunger says:

    Oh hell yeah, I’m definitely going to be participating in this! Great idea!

  3. Ste J says:

    I am also in, great start off for the blog, good to see Rousseau getting some love and a great book connection going on as well. Thoroughly fascinating mix…the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down!

    • So excited to see people wanting to get involved with this. I’m truly fascinated to see who people select. That’s my real motivation here. Well, that and getting people to write my blog for me.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Tell a friend!

      • Ste J says:

        It will be interesting to find out about figures in history that I knew nothing or not much about. I admire your tactic of having an easy time of it with the blog. It is noble to help others have a voice…which is how I would spin it in a positive way ha!

      • Exactly…I feel like your popular blog is not enough of a voice. Until you get page views on my blog, you haven’t been heard!

        Can’t wait to see people’s five. I’m also just as interested in the criteria. I like my wife’s idea of the five people she most wants to ask a few questions. Lee Harvey Oswald…you’ve got a few days time to even find out what you want to know!

  4. jarretr says:

    Hi Aaron. I’d love to do one of these posts in a few weeks. Busy with work now (even had to get a guest poster for my blog this week!) but I’ll e mail you in a couple weeks or so with a contribution if that’s okay.

    • Of course that’s OK. The first couple are already done. Then there are a few more in the works. I wouldn’t even start pestering you for a month or so. Just e-mail me with Fab Five or something similar in the subject line.

  5. seanmunger says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.seanmunger.com and commented:
    Here is the start of an awesome series on the Yesterday Unhinged blog, where articles will highlight a revolving showcase of history bloggers’ “Fabulous Five” historical figures! I’m going to be taking part in this series and others that I follow will too, so I thought I’d show you this inaugural post. I’m looking forward to the other entries!

  6. aaroncripps says:

    Reblogged this on Europeenses and commented:
    My namesake Aaron writes a thoroughly enjoyable and wide ranging history blog under the byline Yesterday Unhinged. His Fab Five Series is a regular feature in which he asks other bloggers to contribute their favourite five characters from history. Take a look, there’s some interesting choices, and if you feel like contributing by writing your own Fab Five get scribbling and email your final choices to Yesterday Unhinged.

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