History's HEROES?

What is a hero? section

What is a hero? section

Hero or Villain?

Heroes are often remarkable people. Sometimes they challenge the views of people at the time or take actions which others didn't or wouldn't. Some of the individuals on our site were described as villains, rather than heroes, by their peers. This section explores how the same person can be viewed in different ways, both at the time they lived and later. 

Open to Intepretation

People in China still venerate Mao Tze Tung. Some people in Russia still revere Stalin. In each of these cases, many other people today regard these men as having done immense harm to the countries they ruled. These are extreme cases. However, some of the heroes listed in this webiste were - and are - controversial figures.

One of Oliver Cromwell's contemporaries described him as "that brave, bad man". His memory is still detested by many people in Ireland. Even many Englishmen do not much admire him. After all, within a couple of years of his death, the republic he had fought so hard to bring about was gone, replaced by the very monarchy he had opposed.

Less controversially, some people today look at Nelson's life and think, so what? He was just doing the job he was paid to do, and in any case, he didn't actually achieve much apart from making himself very famous. Others see him as having achieved victories on a scale no one else could have done and, in so doing, saving his country and laying the foundations of Britain's naval supremacy for more than a century - to the great advantage of the entire world.

Thomas Paine was said by a contemporary to have "lived long, done some good, and much harm."

Even in the case of Elizabeth Fry, while not questioning what she achieved, people, both at the time and now, have questioned her motives - was she more interested in her fame than the people she campaigned for?

So, nothing's straightforward when it comes to thinking of people as heroes. It's all down to interpretation - as the following activity will show.

Hero or Villain? Activity

Hero or villain? - YOU decide!

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