Most Important Historical Figure. Ever.I'm writing an article on influential historical figures and wanted to get some thoughts on who you think might have shaped history the most. If you had to...

Most Important Historical Figure. Ever.

I'm writing an article on influential historical figures and wanted to get some thoughts on who you think might have shaped history the most. If you had to pick just one person, who do you believe has indelibly stamped--for better or for worse--life as we know it?

49 Answers

jrwilliams4321's profile pic

jrwilliams4321 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I would submit that this (much like just about everything else in history) is subject to the time in which the question is asked.  There was once a poll done in the 1920's among historians of the time, asking virturally the same question, "Who is the most important man in history?" At the time, Henry Ford came in at the third position, as he was one of (if not the) most influential people of his day... For record, he was only surpassed by Napoleon and Christ... so with that thinking in mind, maybe in the modern day, we have to include men likes Gates and Jobs to the list.

jumiry's profile pic

jumiry | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

A few years ago the author Michael N. Hart wrote a book called "The 100: A Listing of the 100 Most Influential Persons in History."  He later revised the book and made some additions and deletions.  This is as close as I have seen to an answer to a question like yours.  There is no single all time most important historical figure, and there is any number of persons from which to choose.  As you narrow your topic a bit, you will find the question becomes even more difficult.  For example, suppose the question were, "which founding father of the US is most important?" George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Tom Paine? John Adams?  Any answer is subjective.  The best you can hope to do is select from a list of those you perceive to be significant figures and who have had great influence on the world at large.  If you can overcome the natural prejudice for one's own country, ethnicity, era, and personal biases, you will find some interesting options.


rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If you mean in the Western world, which is what most of these responses are focused on, I'd say Jesus. If you mean the entire world, I wouldn't even posit an answer, although I'd lean toward someone, e.g. Gutenberg, who is credited with an important technological advance. Honestly, Christopher Columbus would be up there-his actions set in motion a series of events that brought one hemisphere in contact with the other, and obviously neither has been the same since. But then again, he was motivated in part by millenarian Christianity, so we're back to Jesus again. As with most good questions, the only bad answer would be one that was unsupported.

accessteacher's profile pic

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

Posted on

I agree with others in highlighting Jesus of Nazareth as the figure you would have to go for. Whatever your personal beliefs about Christianity, it is a fact that the existence of Jesus is historically proven and the impact he has had on the world has been amazing - of course, this is an impact that is still ongoing. Just think of how other important historical figures have been influenced by Jesus - Ghandi, for example. Also consider the sheer number of people who have been influenced by him.

enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

The most influential individual of all time was whoever it was that learned how to start and control a fire.  Of course, if our time is any indication, several must have come across this technique simultaneously.  Fire forever separated human from animal;  it's use created the conditions for civilization to begin.

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Wow!  This is an interesting question.  I'd have to agree that Alexander the Great is a good answer.  In more modern history, I'd pick Elizabeth the I, who brought the arts, including literature and theater, to the forefront in Britain, which, in turn, ended up greatly influencing American arts, along with many other countries' arts.

jilllessa's profile pic

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

Posted on

While I have to agree that Jesus was the most important historical figure, because if you believe in him, he is still changing the world today, I also think a case could be made for Abraham.  After all three world religions look to him as a founder and prophet;  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 

alexb2's profile pic

alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted on

It's almost an impossible question to answer, but I think you'd just have to pick someone who represents a lot of things in one person. Alexander the Great is one whose life shows: education, war, love, conquest, empire, wealth, poverty, change, etc. Through the story of Alexander, you can start to understand some of the common threads that run throughout all history.

linda-allen's profile pic

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

Posted on

This might not help you much because we'll never know the name of the person I think is the most important in history. I tell my students that the most brilliant people who ever lived were the cave men. How did they look at a sheep and think, "If I shave the wool off that animal and pull it into long strings, I can weave it together to make a coat"? How did they figure out that if they built a fire hot enough, they could melt a rock and shape it into knives and swords? Movies that portray early people as grunting, ignorant brutes are so wrong!

Seriously, as a Christian I have to say that Jesus is the most influential person who has ever lived. Second would be Moses.

texas55's profile pic

texas55 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Abraham Lincoln. No president has ever overcomed as much as Lincoln did. Asides from the crushing depression he often expierenced, he also led the nation through its toughest times. It's a shame we never got to see how different Reconstruction would have been
hyperdragoness's profile pic

hyperdragoness | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Jesus Christ would be my top pic plainly for religous reasons and that he was a very influential person in terms of religon. Most people, not to say everyone, would name Jesus (J.C) as one of the most important people in history ever. He is the guy that came up with stories, and proverbs and ideas about how we should live (looki it up in the bible, new testament) in an orderly and spiritually healthy manner. He performed miracles that has been recorded not just in the bible, and he himself is a miracle. The guy cannot die!

loraaa's profile pic

loraaa | Student | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted on

This topic is very great, thank you very much for this good effort.
I have benefited a lot from it.
I wish everyone to benefit from this excellent topic.
Thank you again.....

maggiekb's profile pic

maggiekb | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

jesus. he managed to brainwash thousands of people in his life and millions more from beyond the grave.

How did Jesus "brainwash" people? Christians have logical, thought-out reasons for their faith. To say that millions of people believe in a certain religion because they have been "brainwashed" is immature, pathetic, petty, and snobby beyond belief. Find an actual argument against my religion next time you go around critisizing it. Thanks!

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