Evil Masters: The Frightening World of Tyrants


230 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55037-895-3
DDC j920.02





Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus and co-author of Becoming a Teacher.


The Great Man theory of history maintains that individuals, by their
actions, can change the world for the better. Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, and
Martin Luther King Jr. are often cited as examples. In Evil Masters,
Scandiffio uses this theory to document how individuals can also change
the world for the worse.

An introductory chapter identifies the ways of the tyrant, highlights
their characteristics, and points out childhood experiences common to
many of them. The seven tyrants Scandiffio chose lived during different
eras. Qin Shi Huangdi (260 BCE–210 BCE) conquered the warring states
of China to become the country’s first emperor. Nero (AD 37–68), who
ruled the Roman Empire, was held responsible for the burning of Rome.
Russia’s Ivan the Terrible (1530–1584) ravaged his kingdom and
murdered his son. France’s Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), a
major leader of the French Revolution, advocated the use of terror as
justice. Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), the German leader who started World
War II, exterminated more than six million Jews. Josef Stalin
(1878–1953) instigated the Great Purge, a campaign that resulted in
the deaths of millions of Russians. Saddam Hussein (b. 1937), the
deposed leader of Iraq, is currently standing trial for crimes against

In chapters replete with charts, timelines, visuals, and fact sheets,
the tyrannical actions of each leader are explained. A concluding
chapter identifies five more recent tyrants: “Papa Doc” Duvalier of
Haiti, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Idi Amin of
Uganda, and Kim Il Jong II of North Korea.

Scandiffio offers a recipe to counter tyranny: “The greatest barrier
to a tyrant’s success has always been people who respect human rights
and refuse to abandon their responsibility as citizens.” Evil Masters
is an excellent source for learning about the importance of human
rights. Highly recommended.


Scandiffio, Laura., “Evil Masters: The Frightening World of Tyrants,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/23351.