The Origins of Totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt

Introduced by Anne Applebaum

The Origins of Totalitarianism won the Scholarly, Academic & Reference Books category at BBD&P Awards 2022

Published by Folio in its first-ever illustrated edition, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism is a ground-breaking study of how the Nazi and Soviet regimes came to power, which speaks directly to our own age.

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The mob always will shout for ‘the strong man’, the ‘great leader’. For the mob hates society from which it is excluded.

In an age of strong-man leaders, mass populist movements and media disinformation, The Origins of Totalitarianism has soared back into the public consciousness and become essential reading for our times. Published shortly after the Second World War, Hannah Arendt’s study of state tyranny stands as a powerful warning from history, and as one of the 20th century’s most important works of political history. Arendt – with the insight of a Jewish refugee who fled Hitler’s Germany – lays bare the brutality of Nazism and Stalinism, and seeks to advance our understanding of the forces of antisemitism and imperialism that forged them. This is the first-ever illustrated edition, with famous propaganda images and documentary photography from the USSR and the Third Reich. It includes an exclusive introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum – a leading voice on authoritarianism and Russian history – who fears that ‘once again, we are living in a world that Arendt would recognise.’

The Origins of Totalitarianism won the Scholarly, Academic & Reference Books category at the British Book Production and Design Awards 2022.

Quarter-bound in blocked cloth with textured paper sides printed with a design by Jamie Keenan

Set in Dante with Kabel as display

Vol 1: 464pp; Vol 2: 448pp

28 integrated colour and black-and-white images per volume

Printed and die-cut slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.

The Folio Society has carefully chosen 56 full-page illustrations for this two-volume edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Many of the images are of propaganda, both in the form of satirical cartoons – including antisemitic caricatures of Alphonse de Rothschild, Disraeli and Emile Zola – and official materials such as SS recruitment posters. With photographs of momentous events, such as the Alfred Dreyfus trial and military parades from the Nazi film Triumph of the Will, alongside candid shots of peasants and forced labourers in the USSR. The second volume includes a chilling visual chronicle of totalitarian state apparatus and where it leads, from Stalin’s infamous photographs with purged officials airbrushed out, to British war artist Leslie Cole’s painting of the death pits at Bergen-Belsen.

‘Arendt’s words increasingly sound less like a dispatch from another century than a chilling description of the political and cultural landscape we inhabit today.’
  1. Guardian

The Origins of Totalitarianism is a gripping and unsettling read. With urgency and moral conviction, Arendt drives home the message that freedom is fragile, and no democracy can ignore the terrible lessons of the past. In its analysis of the conditions that led to the Nazi and Soviet regimes, the book covers a vast amount of historical ground. It considers the ever-present undercurrents of antisemitism – from pogroms in Middle Europe to the Dreyfus Affair that divided France, prefiguring Hitler’s Final Solution – along with the industrialised cruelty of 19th-century colonialism in Africa, the rise of empires after the First World War, and the use of political racism to justify the occupation of nations and the mass displacement of people. On an individual level, Arendt shows how social isolation drives populism and susceptibility to propaganda – and most chillingly, how dictatorship and mass hatred can prevail when ‘the distinction between fact and fiction, and the distinction between true and false, no longer exist.’

Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. While living in New York from 1941, she taught at a number of universities and wrote the books on which her reputation as an incisive political theorist depends – notably The Origins of Totalitarianism but also The Human Condition and others. Throughout her work she sought to build a moral and political framework that could help explain the horrors of the age – the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships. Arendt had deep experience of the totalitarianism she wrote about: having been born into a German Jewish family, she was educated in Marburg and Heidelberg, but fled Germany in 1933. Following several years in exile in Paris, which she spent working to support refugees from Nazi-occupied territory, Arendt settled in the United States and became an American citizen. She is perhaps most widely known for her reporting on Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, during which she coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’.

Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist. She is currently a staff writer for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Following her education at Yale, LSE and Oxford, Applebaum worked in Warsaw as a correspondent for The Economist and has since written widely for newspapers including the Washington Post and the Sunday Telegraph. Her award-winning books on Eastern Europe in the 20th century include Gulag: A History, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe and Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Most recently she is the author of Twilight of Democracy, on the rise of populist authoritarianism across the West.


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