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Do Individuals change history?How much can one idividual change history?  Would there...

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jilllessa | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted April 22, 2008 at 7:47 PM via web

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Do Individuals change history?

How much can one idividual change history?  Would there have been a Reformation without Martin Luther?  Would the United States of America exist without George Washington.  Over the past several decades there has been a movement away from looking at the great men and women who influenced history to looking at social, economic, and political causes for every event. I believe that there are certain individuals that have changed the course of history.  What do you think?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 22, 2008 at 7:53 PM (Answer #2)

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I agree with you. Would England have become a world power if Elizabeth I had not been queen? Would the Soviet Union have collapsed if anyone besides John Paul II had been pope? We'll never know, but we do know that individuals can greatly influence their times.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:21 AM (Answer #3)

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I'm right there with you both.  Certain individuals seem so omnipresent and valuable during particular epochs in history.  Marie Antoinette, Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, etc., etc.

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theoriginalmax | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 12, 2009 at 7:03 AM (Answer #4)

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I agree with you. Would England have become a world power if Elizabeth I had not been queen? Would the Soviet Union have collapsed if anyone besides John Paul II had been pope? We'll never know, but we do know that individuals can greatly influence their times.

England's global expansion was brought about by private entrepeneurs and the enterprise of the merchant class. the Queen was fast becoming a figurehead whose role was incidental to the changes happening around her.

Simularly, from where did the notion that JPII brought down the Iron curtain come? It was a reaction to the deStalinisation processes of perestroika and glasnost, combined the folling decades with Raegen's arms race

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 12, 2009 at 7:39 AM (Answer #6)

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Individuals do change history.  Lee Harvey and John Wilkes certainly did; and if they didn't, would others have killed Kennedy and Lincoln? Maybe, maybe not, but that's a speculation of alternative history.  Yes, there are cultural forces--social, economic, political, that can describe a setting within which individuals act, but it's the individuals who act, not the cultural force.  The increasing emphasis on "Social Studies" and not History is an erroneous attempt to be inclusive of different cultures and ideas. The "We-don't-want-to-study-about-a-bunch-of-dead-white-guys" argument is perfectly valid -- but then study what individuals in other cultures and times have done, don't reduce them to a set of "cultural forces." There are great men and women in every culture; their actions have created the world we live in now, and that alone is worthy of our study.  Individuals make history. Without them, there is no cultural force.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 2:40 PM (Answer #7)

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I have to agree with others by thinking that evidence suggests that individuals do have a massive impact on history. Just consider what history would be like if it wasn't for Adolf Hitler, Alexander the Great or Ghandi, to mention just a few. Clearly history shows us a catalogue of inspiring, charismatic individuals who are able to provoke change - for good or for bad.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 22, 2010 at 10:46 PM (Answer #8)

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Rarely, but it does happen.  I like the example of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War, who almost single-handedly saved the entire Union position at Gettysburg, and therefore prevented British intervention and a change in the course of that war.  Sometimes one person can make all the difference.

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rajshree18 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted August 31, 2010 at 10:28 AM (Answer #9)

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I believe that individuals create and change the course of history... Fancy this, had it not been for Gandhi , I guess India would have never sniffed the fruit of freedom... Also its easy to start a reform of some kind but quite a challenge to fulfill or complete the reformation process to socially , economically benefit the human mankind... Also few names like Gayatri Devi, the lady of royal lineage from Jaipur made a girl school in an era where girls were debarred from education, Great Mughal king Akbar who brought a revolution socially come to mind. 

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 2, 2011 at 6:01 AM (Answer #10)

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Individuals definitely change history. Although groups of people can create change, it really takes one person with an idea to get the ball rolling. Individuals influence groups. They are the ones that actually make history. History is made one person at a time.

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