John P. Diggins, 73, Historian, DiesHistorians in the News
The cause was complications of colon cancer, said his companion, Elizabeth Harlan.
Mr. Diggins, who taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, roamed widely as he traced the intellectual contours of American political thought from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the present day. His interest in the twists and turns of ideology, and the evolution of ideas, led him to explore pivotal thinkers all along the political spectrum whose preoccupations and struggles led him to the deeper questions of American identity and self-definition.
He was fascinated, for example, by a fault line in American thought: the great divide that he perceived between the Declaration of Independence, whose language of self-fulfillment presupposed the golden rule of civic virtue, and the Constitution, whose careful attention to property rights and the pursuit of gain reflected the harsher American value of “power, struggle and self-assertion,” as he put it in his book on Lincoln, “On Hallowed Ground” (2000).
It was Lincoln’s mission, he wrote, and a continuing challenge for Americans today, to revalidate the language of the declaration.
“He was the most philosophical-minded of the American historians,” said the political historian Paul Berman, a writer in residence at New York University. “He was always trying to get at the big questions, about heroism, virtue and the conflict between utopian aspirations and the disappointments of life. His work was a kind of ongoing meditation.”...
comments powered by Disqus
Alonzo Hamby - 2/4/2009
Jack Diggins was an American original--a young man from a modest family who originally went to college to play basketball and developed into a premier scholar whose work spilled over from academia into the realm of political controversy.
To my mind, he was the most interesting person to do American intellectual history since Perry Miller.
- Trump got history wrong in interview with NYT
- A Century-Old Abraham Lincoln Mystery May Finally Have an Answer
- Did an Israeli student steal Auschwitz artifacts for her art exhibit?
- Memorial erected at site of witch trial hangings
- Michael Beschloss says if Trump pardons himself this is worse than Watergate
- One reason H.R. McMaster and Trump don't have a close relationship
- Rick Perlstein joins criticism of Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains"
- Daniel Pipes says it’s time for the Palestinians to recognize they lost
- Wm. Theodore de Bary, Renowned Columbia Sinologist, Dies at 97
- Iran sentences Princeton history grad student to 10 years for spying