A reading club with a view to the future

415 Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny

“On Tyranny” provides valuable historical insights and practical lessons to safeguard democracy and resist the rise of authoritarianism by drawing parallels from the events of the twentieth century.



"On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder is a concise and powerful exploration of the dangers of tyranny and the importance of preserving democratic values. Drawing from the lessons of history, particularly the experiences of the twentieth century, Snyder presents twenty crucial lessons that empower individuals to recognize the signs of authoritarianism and take action to protect democratic institutions. Each lesson in the book offers practical advice, urging readers to be vigilant, engage in civic participation, and defend truth and democratic norms. By examining historical examples and drawing parallels to contemporary political challenges, Snyder emphasizes the importance of learning from the past to prevent the erosion of democratic principles.

The book serves as a wake-up call, encouraging readers to recognize their role in upholding democratic values and resisting the temptations of authoritarianism. Through its concise and accessible format, "On Tyranny" empowers individuals to stand against tyranny, defend liberty, and safeguard the foundations of democracy.


  1. Title: "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century" 
  2. Author: Timothy Snyder 
  3. Publishing Year: 2017 
  4. Publisher: Tim Duggan Books 
  5. Length in Hours: Approximately 1 hour and 47 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Historical Lessons: The book highlights significant events and lessons from the twentieth century that reveal the destructive consequences of tyranny and authoritarian rule.
  2. Warning Signs: Snyder identifies various warning signs and tactics employed by authoritarian leaders to undermine democratic institutions and consolidate power.
  3. Civic Engagement: The importance of active civic participation, including voting, engaging with local communities, and joining social and political organizations, is emphasized as a means to preserve democracy.
  4. Defending Truth: The book underscores the essential role of truth, facts, and reliable information in maintaining a healthy democracy, urging readers to critically evaluate sources of information and resist the spread of misinformation.
  5. Individual Responsibility: "On Tyranny" emphasizes the individual's responsibility to protect democratic values, encouraging readers to take action, speak out against injustice, and support institutions that promote democracy and human rights.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Make sure you have your own copy of the Constitution since we're all going to need it." - Timothy Snyder
  2. "Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given." - Timothy Snyder
  3. "Take responsibility for the face of the world." - Timothy Snyder
  4. "To be bored is to be ignorant." - Timothy Snyder
  5. "If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny." - Timothy Snyder

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The politics of inevitability is a self-induced intellectual coma." - Timothy Snyder
  2. "Post-truth is pre-fascism." - Timothy Snyder
  3. "Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom." - Timothy Snyder
  4. "The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions." - Timothy Snyder
  5. "Be wary of paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh." - Timothy Snyder

5 dilemmas

  1. Security versus Freedom: The dilemma of balancing the need for security with the preservation of individual freedoms and civil liberties in the face of increasing government surveillance and control.
  2. Silence versus Resistance: The dilemma individuals face when deciding whether to remain silent and avoid potential repercussions or speak out against injustice and risk persecution.
  3. Conformity versus Conscience: The dilemma of choosing between conforming to societal expectations and going against the grain to stand up for one's principles and values.
  4. Short-Term Comfort versus Long-Term Consequences: The dilemma of prioritizing immediate personal comfort and convenience over the long-term impact of compromising democratic norms and institutions.
  5. Individualism versus Collective Action: The dilemma of deciding between individual self-interest and collective action for the greater good, recognizing that collective efforts are often necessary to protect democracy and resist authoritarianism.

5 examples

  1. The book references Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi regime to illustrate the dangers of authoritarianism and the need to be vigilant in protecting democracy.
  2. Timothy Snyder discusses the actions and tactics employed by Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian regime to demonstrate the consequences of unchecked power.
  3. The book analyzes the role of leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during World War II, highlighting their efforts to defend democratic values in the face of tyranny.
  4. Nelson Mandela's struggle against apartheid in South Africa is mentioned as an example of the power of resistance and the fight for equality and justice.
  5. The book explores the impact of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and their nonviolent resistance movements, emphasizing the strength of peaceful protest in challenging oppressive regimes.

Referenced books

  1. "The Origins of Totalitarianism" by Hannah Arendt
  2. "The Captive Mind" by Czesław Miłosz
  3. "1984" by George Orwell
  4. "The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  5. "The Lion and the Unicorn" by George Orwell

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"Make sure you have your own copy of the Constitution since we're all going to need it."

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