Great leaders are often the focus of debate, and it’s not unusual for their reputations to wax and wane over time. We polled history teachers to find out which leaders they would be most interested to see featured and the response was Churchill, Stalin, Thatcher, and Fidel Castro in that order. You’ll find the first two below and the others are in the works.

The programme for each leader has an interactive video with two competing historical interpretations, one praising and one critical, pdf packs with 20 sources for students to explore digitally or for you to print, a question which can be debated at the end of the week, and a PowerPoint lesson plan.

Great Leaders: Week 1


Churchill has been voted as the greatest Briton ever in online polls, based on his role in leading British resistance to the Nazis in World War Two. However, he has also received criticism for his attitudes to race and his resistance to giving India independence. Perhaps because of his fame he has become the focal point in a culture war about how we remember the past, which can obscure his actual record. This programme puts the focus back on the man – his character, actions and words, and will help you form your own opinion.


Here are some further reading suggestions, covering a range of interpretations:


Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny (2018)

Richard Toye, Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010)

Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II (2013)

William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill. (1989)

Robert Rhodes James, Churchill, A Study in Failure, 1900-1939 (1973)

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Churchill’s Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill (2021)


You can also read our blog posts that summarise the cases for and against Winston Churchill.




PDF of Sources

PPTX Lesson Plan

Great Leaders: Week 2


Stalin’s historical reputation has waxed and waned perhaps more than anyone else’s. In the West he has been a foe in the 1930s, a friend and ally in the 1940s, and a foe again at the end of World War Two. At home he has been seen as both a tyrant and a national saviour; a tyrant in terms of how he repressed political dissent of any kind by imprisoning millions, and a national saviour in terms of defeating the Nazis and establish the USSR as a superpower.


Here are some further reading suggestions, covering a range of interpretations:


Robert Tucker, Stalin in Power (1990)

Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (1949)

O Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (2007)

S S Montefiore Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants (1994)

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union 1921-1934 (1979)

D. Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization (1986)

Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain (1995)


You can also read our blog posts offering a range of perspectives on Stalin, here and here.


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Great Leaders: Week 3


Margaret Thatcher remains a divisive figure. Her supporters argue that she relaunched the British economy, restored British pride and not only that, she was an early advocate for taking actions to prevent climate change. Her critics argue that she destroyed British manufacturing, sold off key utilities such as water and gas, supported repressive regimes abroad like Pinochet’s Chile and opposed sanctions on apartheid South Africa.


You can also read our blog posts offering different perspectives on Thatcher, here and here

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Great Leaders: Week 4

COMING SOON: Fidel Castro

The longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries, Castro polarized opinion throughout the world. His supporters view him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary government advanced economic and social justice while securing Cuba’s independence from US influence. Critics call him a dictator whose administration oversaw human rights abusesthe exodus of many Cubans, and the impoverishment of the country’s economy.

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