The Engelsberg Ideas Portraits series gives pride of place to the secondary figures who make the wheels of history whir and thrum. They include Churchill s half-forgotten right-hand man, a leading light of the Parisian Belle Epoque lost to history, and an early space pioneer virtually unknown outside of his native Russia. History belongs not only to the popularly renowned but also to the other figures, the men and women who found their energies suddenly borne along by events or who made a unique contribution to the great debates of their time. Throughout the series, leading writers show us how individuals shaped the world as we know it, examining their successes as much as their failures and delusions. The Anglo-German novelist W.G. Sebald wrote at the turn of our century that everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life. In these portraits we find the dim traces left by interesting lives lived and conscientiously restore them, so that they gleam once more, bright and alive in the present.
Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford, where he is Stavros Niarchos Foundation Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research and a senior research fellow at Worcester College.
Rob Johnson is the senior research fellow of Pembroke College, associate of the Department of Politics and International Relations and director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, at the University of Oxford.