Every biographical portrayal encounters the question of how the individual interacted with his contemporaries, the world in which he lived, and how he responded to the structural rigidities pertaining at the time. What can an extraordinary individual, bound by the constraints and exigencies of his own age, achieve? Is he to create a new structure or does he see his historical mission as that of preserving the inherited order? Or does he belong to the great destroyers who brought about the destruction of centuries-old orders without replacing them with viable alternatives? Is it not, then, the unnamed thousands and their almost inexhaustible ability for regeneration in whom the continuity of history is manifested? How small the possibilities available to the ‘individuals of global historical significance’ (as Hegel called them) appear, and yet how splendid their role could be in the eyes of the philosopher as the ‘guardians of the spirit of the world’.