If there is a common thread linking these momentous historical trials, it is the thread of injustice: not one of the men or women convicted (with the possible exception of Charles I), deserved the death, imprisonment and infamy meted out to them by their accusers.
There is solace in the fact that this tendency towards cruelty is balanced by the human inclination to be generous and good.
Nuclear scientist Albert Einstein once wrote in defence of the philosopher Bertrand Russell that ‘great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.’
And Christopher Hitchens wrote, in a similar vein, that ‘heroism breaks its heart, and idealism its back, on the intransigence of the credulous and the mediocre, manipulated by the cynical and the corrupt.’
But the balance between these two forces is something anybody can influence for the better, the great examples of injustice offered by the past.