Matthew Parris, presenter of Great Lives on BBC Radio 4, explores the surprising connection between trauma and greatness through vivid case histories.
Ada Lovelace. Frederick Douglass. Vladimir Lenin. Marie Curie. Frieda Kahlo. Carl Jung. Tupac Shakur. All geniuses who changed the world in ways that still influence our lives today. And all men and women who experienced, in childhood, trauma so severe that it should have broken them completely.
While presenting Great Lives on Radio 4, Matthew Parris noticed a trend in the lives of the exceptional people the programme covered: many of them had been marked by extreme trauma and deprivation. They seemed to have succeeded not only in spite of their backgrounds, but perhaps even because of them.
As Matthew Parris brings each individual's story to life in this original and compelling study, it becomes clear that we must rethink the origins of success, as well as the legacy of trauma.
Matthew Parris worked for the Foreign Office before serving as an MP. He now writes as a columnist for The Times and the Spectator, and has previously won the Best Columnist award at the British Press Awards. He is the author of several books, including his biography Chance Witness, the bestselling The Spanish Ambassador's Suitcase and a compendium of the world's greatest insults, Scorn.