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Understanding mad rulers

History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers by Scott Rank, Regnery History, US $29.99, Pp 218, May 2020, ISBN 978-1684510061

More and more people including many mental professionals are asking one question since President Donald Trump won the last presidential elections: Is President Trump mad? Does he have mental/behavioral issues? Mental health professionals say that President Trump suffers from narcissistic personality disorder which is evident by a “social media logorrhea” that his Twitter feed alone serves as diagnostic proof. John Gartner, the founder of Duty to Warn, whose petition has over sixty thousand signatures from mental health professionals. The petition recommends removing President Trump from the White House on the basis of his mental health condition.

In History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers, Scott Rank argues that the modern mental health field has completely abandoned metaphysical approaches. It has also eschewed social and cultural dimensions in its understanding of madness. Biology is the lens through which madness is seen. Psychiatry approaches madness as a product partially of environment but mostly of biology. Diagnoses of mental conditions are according to neuroscience, genetics, and epigenetic triggers in a patient’s environment. There could be a genetic mutation, increasing the risk of schizophrenia. Or a lack of Vitamin A due to no sunlight exposure in the winter could trigger seasonal affective disorder. There could also be a family history of bipolar disorder. Scott Rank’s nine most insane rulers include  Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula, King Charles VI of France, Russian Tsar Ivan The Terrible, Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I, King George III of England, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, President Idi Amin of Uganda, President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, and Supreme leader Kim Jong-Il of North Korea.

Scott Rank argues that Madness does not make a ruler inherently better or worse. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill suffered from depression, which arguably formed part of their greatness. Jimmy Carter was by all accounts perfectly sane, but few people would argue Carter was a better president than Lincoln. Moreover, madness does not seem to strip away one’s core character. George III never swore in the depths of his madness. Madness in a ruler is a quality to be taken into consideration and often accompanies poor leadership, but it is not synonymous with being a tyrant or brute.

He shows that mad rulers are united by a misunderstanding of the past, but there are other common factors that group them together. Almost all ascended the throne at a young age, making them pawns of family members and court officials. Caligula grew up in a war zone; Charles VI and Ivan the Terrible in family courts in which enemy factions wanted to neutralize them and exploit them or kill them. Scott says that charlatans surround them. Ibrahim’s court advisor Cinci Hoca told the sultan that his selfish whimsies were the whisperings of the divine. Wealthy Romans enthusiastically joined Caligula’s cult of worship to obtain lucrative positions as temple priests.

Scott Rank says that these rulers also grew up isolated from others and suffered psychological damage. Ibrahim lived in the Gilded Cage. Confined to royal palaces, tutored in arcane humanities and royal duties, Ludwig was molded into a Bavarian ruler. Modern psychology points out to personality disorders and health problems that spring from a lack of human contact.

This royal upbringing protocol had a similar operational logic to royal Egyptian inbreeding practices to keep a pure blood line — a program that sought to uphold “purity” but resulted in inbreeding and disgusting abnormalities. It had the same result in psychological development as inbreeding did in physical development: gross deformities.

History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers gives the stories of these mad rulers and explains why they did what they did. Rank shows that mad rulers are not necessarily bad rulers. However, their madness should be taken into account when assessing them. History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers shows that Scott Rank has full grasp of the psychology of mad rulers. You may disagree with the choice of these nine rulers, but you would find similar personality traits and circumstances in which they were raised in any other set of nine rulers. History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers is a meticulously researched scholarly work that is brilliantly written for lay readers. It will help you better understand living leaders. History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers distinguishes Scott Rank from other historians.

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