A Century of Populist Demagogues

Eighteen European Portraits, 1918–2018
$30.95 / €26.95 / £22.95
Publication date: 
347 pages

The renowned historian Ivan T. Berend discusses populist demagoguery through the presentation of eighteen politicians from twelve European countries from World War I to the present. In this book, Berend defines demagoguery, reflects on its connections with populism, and examines the common features and differences in the demagogues’ programs and language.

Mussolini and Hitler, the “model demagogues,” are only briefly discussed, as is the election of Donald Trump in the United States and its impact on Europe. The eighteen detailed portraits include two communists, two fascists, and several rightwing and anti-EU politicians. The series runs from Béla Kun, the leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, through Codreanu and Gömbös in the 1930s, Stahremberg and Haider in Austria, Ceaușescu, Milošević, Tuđjman, Izetbegović, Berlusconi, Wilders, the two Le Pens, Farage and Boris Johnson, up to Orbán and the two Kaczyńskis. Each case includes an analysis of the time and place and is illustrated with quotations from the demagogues’ speeches.   

This book is a warning about the continuing threat of populist demagogues both for their subjects and for history itself. Berend insists on the crucial importance for Europe to understand the reality behind their promises and persuasive language in order to impede their success.

Preface and Acknowledgement
Introduction: Who are the demagogues and how and when can they attain political power?

Part I. Interwar populist—communist and fascist—demagogues
Chapter 1. A Hungarian communist demagogue: Béla Kun
Chapter 2. A Hungarian fascist demagogue: Gyula Gömbös
Chapter 3. A Romanian fascist demagogue: Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Chapter 4. A fascistoid Austrian demagogue: Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg

Part II. Turn of the millennium populist demagogues
Chapter 5. An Austrian far-right demagogue: Jörg Haider
Chapter 6. A Romanian communist demagogue: Nicolae Ceaușescu
Chapter 7. Two French demagogues: Le Diable and La Fille du Diable, Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen
Chapter 8. An entertaining but harmful Buffoon-type demagogue: the Italian Silvio Berlusconi
Chapter 9. Three Demagogues in Yugoslavia and a Devastating Civil War
Chapter 10. Two British Brexit fighters: Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage
Chapter 11. A Dutch 'freedom fighter' against the European Union: Geert Wilders
Chapter 12. Difficult transformation, three demagogues: Hungary's Viktor Orbán and the Kaczyński Brothers of Poland


"Published in a particularly turbulent year amid a global pandemic, renowned historian Ivan T. Berend’s latest book comes as a cautionary text reminding readers how times of crisis can act as the breeding ground for populism and the emergence of demagogic leaders seeking to take advantage of popular anxieties and discontent for their own personal or political gain. A Century of Populist Demagogues explores the longstanding history of demagoguery and populism in Europe from the early twentieth century up to today by focusing on the lives of some of Europe’s most notable demagogic figures of the last hundred years. By contextually presenting the circumstances which contributed to their rise to power (or popularity), engaging with these demagogues’ ideas and own words, yet keeping account of their actions (or inaction) – this book offers an accessible, informative, and thought-provoking introduction for anyone interested in exploring the concept of populism and demagoguery and... more