This is the second part of my Fab Five series, where I ask other bloggers, writers, podcasters and friends to give their five favorite historical figures. The criteria is up to them…so is the work! First up is Robert, blogger and friend of the site. You can check out Robert’s work on two of my favorite blogs, If It Happened Yesterday, It’s History and The History of the Byzantine Empire.
I would firstly like to apologise to my gracious host by saying that I found it really difficult to narrow my initial historical figures list down to five. I had covered one end of history to the other and just simply couldn’t decide. I finally decided to settle on a period in history that was most relevant to me and that has had an effect on my life. My list below could easily be different again tomorrow. At least another five could, without a doubt, be substituted depending on my mood. However, I am happy with my choices and please allow me to present my five favourite historical figures of the twentieth century.
David Lean’s epic motion picture first introduced me to the man and myth of Lawrence of Arabia. T.E Lawrence symbolized everything I wanted to be as a kid, an archeologist, adventurer and a reluctant hero. Oh how dreams are fun! His legend had obviously grown over the passage of time, but no one can begrudge or deny his influence in Middle Eastern affairs. His decision to stand up for the underdog (Arab revolt), during and after the Great War have had a profound effect on the 20th century (whether we realize it or not)!
Growing up around the television on a Saturday afternoon, I watched countless World War Two movies. Later in my teens I began to appreciate and understand the reality of war. One day during a quite study period at high school I came across Schindler’s Ark by Australian writer Thomas Keneally in the school library. I was instantly drawn to its story and to my surprise some 3-4 years later as a university student studying social/youth work, Steven Spielberg made his big screen version, Schindler’s List. My humanist values resonate deeply with what Schindler did (saving over 1200 Jewish lives). He is a shining knight in armor who rebelled against a sick and vile regime!
In my final year of high school, I studied Australian politics. I chose as a major assignment to write a piece on Prime Minister John Curtin. He very quickly became someone I admired. Under great stress and sickness, he led Australia through a pivotal period in our young history. When it was thought that all was going to be lost following the Fall of Singapore, he had the strength and resolution to make two important decisions. Firstly, he recalled Australian divisions in the Middle East, angering Winston Churchill in the process, who sought to divert Australians to Burma. To his credit he refused and stood up to Churchill. Secondly, he cemented a new alliance with the United States, which to this day is as strong as ever. Inch by inch, American pop culture has found its way into Australian lives. Even though we regard ourselves uniquely Australian, there is a little bit of ‘Americana’ in all of us.
Most people say he sold out as a film maker, but I don’t care! He is my God! He introduced me to one of the most influential ‘space sagas’ in motion picture history. Star Wars’ impact and influence around the world, in particular, popular culture, is immense. I have even brainwashed my own son Luke, no just kidding his name is not Luke (its Han) to love Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In fact, in a weird way, George Lucas also introduced me to archeology, discovery and history through Indiana Jones. O.K. I have revealed too much. Lol. But in my defence, I too, hate Jar Jar Binks!
Honest, honorable and courageous is how I describe my favourite person of the 20th century. These are the qualities I like to think I share with my sporting idol, cyclist Greg Lemond. What I love most about him is that when the chips were down, he always rose to the occasion. He stood up to tyrants, like Lance Armstrong, who bullied, vilified and tried to ruin his reputation. He stood strong for over a decade with a small group, led by journalist David Walsh, against the world’s greatest alleged fraud. During his colorful career, he was the new kid on the block, who challenged European cycling traditions (dos and donts). He popularized cycling in the States and was possibly the most innovative cyclist ever! He would go onto win the Tour de France in 1986, 89, 90 and for a long time he was the only non-European to win the Tour, until Cadel Evans.
To check out more posts from the series visit its page here. It gives the rules for playing (none, really) and links to the previous posts.