Stephen Birmingham, Chronicler of the Rich and Other Elites, Dies at 86

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Stephen Birmingham



Stephen Birmingham, the prolific novelist, purveyor of popular sociology and raconteur of the rich and famous in best-selling books like “ ‘Our Crowd’: The Great Jewish Families of New York” and “The Right People: A Portrait of the American Social Establishment,” died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.

His son Carey confirmed the death on Wednesday, saying that the cause was cancer.

Mr. Birmingham was not to the manner born himself, but to manners bred. He was often mistaken for being Jewish because of his trilogy of social histories of American Jews. The others were “The Grandees: America’s Sephardic Elite” and “The Rest of Us: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews.”

Mr. Birmingham made more than a dozen literary excursions into pop sociology, including a group portrait of the Dakota, the exclusive Manhattan apartment building, and explorations of the Irish-American and African-American elites.

To be sure, some of his books were embraced neither by the academy nor by some of the individuals, families or ethnic groups whose social climbing he chronicled. ...




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