John Lukacs, iconoclastic scholar of history, dies at 95

Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians, John Lukacs

John Lukacs, a Hungarian-born historian and iconoclast who brooded over the future of Western civilization, wrote a best-selling tribute to Winston Churchill and produced a substantial and often despairing body of writings on the politics and culture of Europe and the United States, died May 6 at his home in Phoenixville, Pa. He was 95.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his son, Paul Lukacs.

An old-fashioned man with a prominent forehead, cosmopolitan accent, and erudite but personal prose style, Dr. Lukacs was a maverick among historians. In a profession in which liberals were a clear majority, he was sharply critical of the left and of the cultural revolution of the 1960s.

But neither was he satisfied with the modern conservative movement, opposing the Iraq War, mocking hydrogen bomb developer Edward Teller as the “Zsa Zsa Gabor of physics” and disliking the “puerile” tradition, apparently started by Ronald Reagan, of presidents returning military salutes.

“John Lukacs is well known not so much for speaking truth to power as speaking truth to audiences he senses have settled into safe and unexamined opinions,” John Willson, a professor emeritus of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan, wrote in the American Conservative in 2013. “This has earned him, among friends and critics alike, a somewhat curmudgeonly reputation.”

Dr. Lukacs completed more than 30 books, on far-ranging topics including his native country, 20th-century American history and the meaning of history. His books include “Five Days in London” (1999), the memoir “Confessions of an Original Sinner” (1990) and “Historical Consciousness” (1968), in which he contended that the best way to study any subject, whether science or politics, was through its history.

Read entire article at Washington Post

comments powered by Disqus