“It Can't Happen Here”: Authoritarianism In Modern Europe and 21st-Century USA

In 1935, encouraged by his journalist spouse Dorothy Thompson, Sinclair Lewis published the dystopian novel It Can’t Happen Here—-his most popular work to date. Adolph Hitler was the “It” that Lewis had in mind, along with America’s own 1930’s populist Huey Long. But modern Europe had other authoritarians besides Hitler. Ian Kershaw, in his 2022 book Personality and Power: Builders and Destroyers of Modern Europe, traces the rise of each of them—-Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, and Franco, as well as Hitler himself. Trump is mentioned briefly three times in 418 pages. How did Europe’s authoritarians come to power? In March 2024 Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker wrote, “Hitler didn’t grab power; he was given it.” Is this true of all other authoritarians, in Europe and in the U.S.A? Readings include Kershaw’s five chapters on authoritarians, Gopnik’s March 25, 2024 New Yorker article on “The forgotten history of Hitler’s establishment enablers,” and occasional other articles.

Group Leader: Ed Quattlebaum
Venue: Beacon Hill Friends House
Meets on: Wednesday 1 to 3 PM
Starting: 10/9/2024
Sessions: 5
Class Size: 16
Teaching Style: Seminar
Weekly Preparation: 1 - 1.5 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Edwin G. Quattlebaum worked in the History and Social Science Department at Phillips Academy, Andover, for nearly 40 years. Previous courses for Beacon Hill Seminars included “Nuclear Power & Weapons: Proliferation & Responses,” “The Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution,” “Beacon Hill Neighbor: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes,” and recently “A Second Civil War in the USA? Alarming Polarization 2020/1860” as well as “The Cruel’ G.O.P. vs. The ‘Unimaginative’ Democrats: Current American Politics.”