Influential Individuals of History: People Who Made the World a Better Place

A collection of book and film biographies focused on influential people from world history; from writers to artists and scientists.

Influential Individuals of History: People Who Made the World a Better Place

On the 25th of September, 2018, the United Nations began the General Debate of the 73rd session. This opportunity for world leaders to come together and discuss global issues is vital to reach their goal of "Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies". 

After you've watched your fill of the UN General Debates, check out these inspiring stories on our list of influential individuals. Biographies and autobiographies are all about true stories, real destinies, the motivations and goals of important or famous people and their often exciting life narratives. If you're a fan of inspiring and interesting biographies, here are some of our best viewing and reading recommendations.

Giovanni Falcone: A Life against the Mafia

Giovanni Falcone: A Life against the Mafia

View Deal
Paperback £8.99 Amazon

If Giovanni Falcone had not fallen victim to a bomb attack, he would be 79 years old today. Many people may have never heard of the Italian judge who was infamously assassinated by the Sicilian Mafia on May 23rd, 1992. His story plays an essential part in recent Italian history.

For those who have never heard of Falcone, we recommend this account of his life by John Follain: "Vendetta: The Mafia, Judge Falcone and the Quest for Justice". It tells the story of the courageous anti-Mafia judge Falcone, who would later become a historic martyr for the fight against organised crime in Sicily.

Oskar Schindler: Preserver of Humanity

Oskar Schindler: Preserver of Humanity

View Deal

The Holocaust: A tragic chapter of history which should never be forgotten. The books and films which portray this horrific event are numerous and recount the darkest side of Western history.

The famous film “Schindler’s List” was inspired by the novel of the same name by Thomas Keneally. The author discovered Schindler's story by pure happenstance: The Australian author made the acquaintance of Leopold Pfefferberg (called Poldek), a Holocaust survivor who was friends with and owed his life to Schindler, a German entrepreneur. Keneally was so intrigued by Poldek’s story that he decided to go in search of the other “Schindler’s Jews”. 

The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and is a touching and deeply shocking masterpiece portrayed by Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ben Kingsley as his confidant Itzhak Stern, and Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Göth. The film is still as moving today as it was on February 18th, 1994, the date of its original premiere in the United Kingdom.

Who is Malala?

Who is Malala?

View Deal
Paperback £6.49 Amazon

Malala is an 11-year-old girl from northwestern Pakistan who dares to attend school in an unjust world. She enjoys her studies and later wants to become a doctor. But her dreams are stifled; the Taliban have implemented a ban on the education of women and girls.

Malala begins writing a diary in which she records her experiences. She courageously fights repression and continues to attend school, though she could not have anticipated the reaction. One day, while on her way home with classmates, two masked Taliban fighters storm the bus. One of the men asks: “Who is Malala?” No one dares to say anything, but some of the girls look at her and involuntarily expose her - Malala and two of her friends are wounded by gunfire.

Malala is a woman fighting for human rights at personal risk and the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story can be found in this exciting auto-biography, written together by Malala Yousafzai herself and author Christina Lamb, which many have found difficult to put down.

Galileo Galilei: The Man who Watched the Stars

Galileo Galilei: The Man who Watched the Stars

View Deal
Paperback £9.99 Amazon

Turn your eyes to the night sky: stars, planets and galaxies that have fascinated humanity for millennia fill us with questions about our own existence. What is our universe actually made of?

Much of our present-day knowledge is due to the zealous research of ancient scholars who, driven by insatiable curiosity, questioned the views of their time to rationally and scientifically analyse inexplicable natural phenomena.

Galileo Galilei was one such man in Italy, an ingenious scholar who obstinately opposed scripture. His claim was that the Earth revolves around a motionless sun rather than being the centre of the universe. Forced by the Inquisition to renounce these views, he continued to investigate until his death in 1642.

Muhammad Ali: Champion for Life

Muhammad Ali: Champion for Life

View Deal

Muhammad Ali has a gigantic international fanbase. This is no surprise for those who have heard the story of this great man, a prominent figure between the 1960s and 1990s. He was more than just a boxer: He was a defender of civil rights and the symbol of a whole era.

This autobiography gives readers the chance to experience Ali’s story directly from the source. Author Richard Durham worked together with Muhammad Ali for six years to provide this peek into Ali’s life and achievements. His perspective on being a three-time heavyweight boxing champion and an African-American Muslim are truly eye-opening. 

The boxing legend passed away on June 3rd, 2016 at the age of 74. Put plainly by former President Obama: “Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it”.

Stephen Hawking: Remember to Look Up at the Stars and Not Down at your Feet

Stephen Hawking: Remember to Look Up at the Stars and Not Down at your Feet

View Deal
Paperback £8.99 Amazon

Stephen Hawking is probably the most brilliant physicist since Einstein and a true genius and treasure among scientists. His life was exceptional, both in terms of his scientific discoveries in the field of astrophysics and because of his struggle with the severe and incurable disease ALS.

Hawking’s autobiography “My Brief History” gives readers an up-close look into the life and work of this ingenious scientist who would eventually become a pop-culture icon. After a read-through, you will be able to participate in any substantive conversation about Hawking and be savvy on information about his personal life and the highlights of his scientific career.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Music was His Life, Music Lived through Him

Ludwig van Beethoven: Music was His Life, Music Lived through Him

View Deal

This biography is a wonderful portrayal of one of the greatest composers of all time: Ludwig van Beethoven.

Who was the man behind the music, who presented us with moving symphonies and timeless compositions for the piano, string quartet and many other musical mediums? In “Beethoven: The Music and the Life”, author Lewis Lockwood offers a Pulitzer Prize finalist-worthy portrait of the fascinating life of this musician.

Did you also know that this musical genius was deaf? In 1819, eight years before his death, he was already suffering from total deafness, but continued composing: He completed his famous 9th symphony with the hymn “Ode to Joy” in 1824, long after the loss of his hearing.

Coco Chanel: A Designer for All Women

Coco Chanel: A Designer for All Women

View Deal

“What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course”. 

Does this quote from Marilyn Monroe ring any bells? Coco Chanel was a unique talent who became a role model for many other young women in the fashion and design industry.

“Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life” offers insights into the life of an extraordinary inventor, innovator and entrepreneur.  She practically revolutionised the fashion world: under her designer hands, skirts were shortened and the “little black dress” became a staple of any woman’s wardrobe.

She was a designer for every woman, emancipated and independent. Thanks, Ms. Chanel!

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream

View Deal
Paperback £9.68 Amazon

"I have a dream": these words will forever resonate within our memories. Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist, rebel against segregation and Baptist pastor from Atlanta, Georgia. He was tragically shot dead by a racially motivated assassin on April 4th, 1968.

King’s autobiography is a must-have for any civil rights history buff striving to learn more about the personal and professional life of this legend. He is best-known for his rousing speeches in which he repeatedly called for peace for all people, specifically the African-American community. Martin Luther King Jr.’s story stands as a pillar for the foundation of a harmonious, prejudice-free society.