In Memoriam: John Lukacs (1924–2019)

Sad news: the great historian John Lukacs has died.

Because he has been such a great friend, mentor, and teacher to so many of us at ISI for so many years, it would be easy for us to overlook what a monumental career he had. But then you see the obituaries appearing in the most prominent news outlets, and even on the Drudge Report—perhaps the most telling sign of influence here in 2019 America.

And that attention is well deserved. John wrote more than thirty books and hundreds of articles, covering not only the history of the twentieth century but also the nature of historical thought itself. He remains best known for Five Days in London, May 1940, which became a bestseller after New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani touted its relevance after the 9/11 attacks.

But you should not neglect the rest of his work. As our colleague Jeff Nelson and Professor Mark Malvasi wrote in a preface to Remembered Past, an anthology of Lukacs writing, John was “an original mind, a historian acutely sensitive to the conditions that shaped life in the twentieth century,” and “an incomparable writer” who pursued a “lifelong quest for truth.”

Born in Hungary, Lukacs lived under both Nazi and Soviet occupation before he chose exile in 1946. In the United States, he became a visiting professor at prominent universities including Princeton and Columbia. But he spent the bulk of his teaching career at Chestnut Hill College outside Philadelphia.

Making his home in the Delaware Valley, John lived not far from ISI headquarters. He frequently spoke at ISI events and hosted ISI staff and friends for dinner on many occasions. Through the years ISI published three of John’s books, all well worth reading: A Student’s Guide to the Study of History (you can read an excerpt here), Remembered Past, and one of his final works, History and the Human Condition.

Reviewing that last book, the American Conservative offered fitting tribute to John, calling him “one of the true creative geniuses of his profession.”

John Lukacs was indeed that. He was also a dear friend and beloved teacher. We will miss him. Requiescat in pace.

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