Lukacs, John 1924–
Lukacs, John 1924–
(John Adalbert Lukacs)
PERSONAL: Born 1924, in Budapest, Hungary; immigrated to the United States, 1946; son of Paul (a doctor) and Magdalena (Gluck) Lukacs; married Helen Elizabeth Schofield, 1953 (died, 1970); married Stephanie Harvey, 1974; children: (first marriage) Paul, Annemarie. Education: Cambridge University, certificate of proficiency, 1939; Budapest University, Ph.D., 1946.
CAREER: Historian. Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA, became professor of history, department chair, 1947–74. Visiting professor, Columbia University, 1954–55, University of Pennsylvania, 1964, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 1970–71, and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, 1971, 1972. Fulbright professor, University of Toulouse, 1964–65.
MEMBER: American Catholic Historical Association (president, 1977).
AWARDS, HONORS: Ingersoll Prize, 1991.
A History of the Cold War, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1961, 3rd edition published as A New History of the Cold War, 1966.
Decline and Rise of Europe: A Study in Recent History, with Particular Emphasis on the Development of a European Consciousness, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1965.
Historical Consciousness; or, the Remembered Past, Harper (New York, NY), 1968, revised edition, Schocken (New York, NY), 1985, with a new introduction by the author and a foreword by Russell Kirk, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1994.
The Passing of the Modern Age, Harper (New York, NY), 1970.
The Last European War: September 1939–December 1941, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1976.
1945: Year Zero, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Philadelphia: Patricians and Philistines, 1900–1950, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1981.
Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.
The People of South Asia: The Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan, and Nepal, Plenum (New York, NY), 1984.
Excavations at Inamgaon, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute (Pune, India), 1988.
Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (New York, NY), 1988.
Confessions of an Original Sinner, Ticknor and Fields (New York, NY), 1990.
The Duel: 10 May-31 July 1940: The Eighty-Day Struggle between Churchill and Hitler, Ticknor and Fields (New York, NY), 1991.
The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age, Ticknor and Fields (New York, NY), 1993.
Destinations Past: Traveling through History with John Lukacs, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1994.
(With George F. Kennan) George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment, 1944–1946: The Kennan-Lukacs Correspondence, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1997.
The Hitler of History, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
Five Days in London, May 1940, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1999.
A Student's Guide to European History, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 1999.
A Student's Guide to the Study of History, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 2000.
Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.
At the End of an Age, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.
A New Republic: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2004.
Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.
Remembered Past: John Lukacs on History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge: A Reader, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 2005.
June 1941: Hitler and Stalin, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.
Also author of A History of Chestnut Hill College, 1924–74, 1975. Contributor to encyclopedias and periodicals, including Chronicle of Higher Education.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Day Hitler Invaded Russia, for HarperCollins.
SIDELIGHTS: John Lukacs's histories of the years of World War II and the decades since that conflict have earned him the title "philosophical historian" among reviewers of his works. Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, one of Lukacs's most controversial works, "is an engaging intellectual surprise party," wrote Naomi Bliven in the New Yorker. The book suggests that democracy in the United States is being replaced by a paper-pushing bureaucracy of corporations and big government, and that a weakening of diplomatic influence, productivity, and wealth have signaled the nation's decline. "Lukacs's insights can be reliable," J.C. Furnas asserted in the New York Times Book Review, "and he is not gingerly in making a statement." This plain-spoken statement of opinion does not find universal approval among critics, however. Peter Loewenberg, for example, wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that Lukacs's "view of our situation is pessimistic, pungent and often witty; but also flip, impertinent, nostalgic and dinosaurian." Bliven concluded her review by commenting that "were American history—never mind American domi-nance—to cease tomorrow, our contribution to the process of advancement would deserve a more generous assessment than Mr. Lukacs's." Reviewer Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., praised Lukacs's work in the Washington Post Book World, writing that "this eloquent, provocative but disturbing book is vulnerable … to the usual fate of meta-historical works—it will be easy enough to pluck the more cranky and curmudgeonly passages out of context…. That would be an injustice to a valuable and thoughtful work; and it would obscure a warning that may be timelier than we like to think."
In his The Hitler of History, Lukacs surveyed the more than 100 biographies of Adolph Hitler and analyzed their various portraits of the man. The concept is "brilliant," enthused a Publishers Weekly reviewer, explaining that Lukacs "presents a history of the evolution of knowledge about Hitler by studying the biographies and biographers who have attempted to explain the hold he had on the German masses." He attempts to determine where Hitler's ideas were shaped, the origins of his anti-Semitism, and his visionary leadership qualities. "This is an important book for anyone wishing to delve seriously into the literature of Hitler," advised Dennis L. Noble in the Library Journal. Istvan Deak in New Republic found The Hitler of History to be "dazzling and peculiar," unusual for the author's assertion that Hitler is the most important historical figure of the twentieth century. National Review writer Richard Brookhiser also noted that Lukacs portrays Hitler as "the hero of World War II, in the sense in which Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost." Foreign Affairs reviewer Stanley Hoffmann concluded that The Hitler of History is a "thought-provoking, probing, and often provocative book."
In A Thread of Years, Lukacs combines historical analysis and fiction in a "chronicle," a type of book popular in the middle ages, which lists events from year to year and includes occasional comment from the author. The narrator, identified only as K., is a Philadelphia gentleman and painter who lives from 1901 to 1969. Through K.'s story, according to Christopher M. Bellitto in an America review, Lukacs illustrates "the death of an ideal: the values of the Anglo-American gentleman…. He focuses on how the world turned the corner from British imperial leadership to an American century, which, he believes, imploded in 1969. His theme, the fall of a civilization during these years, explains likewise his interest in the demise of a way of thinking and acting." Eugen Weber, a reviewer for American Scholar, found K.'s story to be "sprinkled with canny perceptions: the sadness of unvisited American cemeteries, the differences between England and Europe, the pitfalls of national self-determination…. Chatty, allusive, rambling, and digressive, the book is eminently readable; and well worth reading."
In Five Days in London, Lukacs focuses on a critical moment in World War II, when Hitler stood poised to invade England. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate peace with Germany or to prepare to fight. "This scholarly study reveals the drama, uncertainty, suspense, and courage of the men who would ultimately decide the fate of Britain. This is a marvelous example of the complex, behind-the-scenes diplomatic wrangling," stated William D. Bushnell in Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer considered Five Days in London to be "the crown jewel to [Lukacs's] long and distinguished career…. It is the work of a man who lives and breathes history, whose knowledge is limitless and tuned to a pitch that rings true."
Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian is Lukacs's tribute to the British prime minister who inspired his people during the darkest hours of World War II. The volume contains previously published essays and book reviews through which Lukacs studies Churchill's role in the war. In the beginning essays, he writes about Churchill as a participant in history and in later chapters of his role as an historian. Churchill was awarded a Nobel Prize in literature for his own history of World War II.
America reviewer Nancy J. Curtin felt that readers "will find considerable delight" in this collection. State contributor William W. Starr wrote that "Lukacs writes in a compact style, learnedness assumed, phrases strengthened by the weight of protracted study…. There is never a doubt of the author's mastery." Desmond Ryan noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer that "when Churchill died in the winter of 1965, Lukacs … went to the funeral. The most eloquent essay in this cogent and learned look at various aspects of Churchill's career and reputation recalls an occasion of true Brit pomp and circumstance but also of deep and genuine mourning."
At the End of an Age is a study of the modern age that evolved over the last five hundred years, during which scientific knowledge, historical thinking, and the idea of humanity as being the center of the universe came to prominence. Lukacs, who has a strong belief in the power of the human mind, considers the philosophies of Darwin, Marx, Einstein, and Freud. He feels that Darwinism is incompatible with the historical nature of reality. He questions the construction of reality and the concept of fact and feels individuals come closer to truth in accepting one's own ignorance.
A First Things contributor wrote that "Lukacs is taking on almost everything associated with modernity in this updating of his much earlier works such as Historical Consciousness and The Passing of the Modern Age. Part of the fascination of reading Lukacs is watching an acute intelligence hone ever more sharply what it is that he has come to understand." Booklist reviewer Ray Olson concluded by writing that "Lukacs' little book is slow reading, but it contains more than shelves of other historical works."
In Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, Lukacs notes that in contemporary America, conservatives claim patriotism as their own and that through their populism, nationalism, militarism, and antileftism have expanded government, taken control of the media, and drawn the people to their point of view. He points out that this nationalism in the extreme foments hatred not only of outsiders, but also of Americans who dare to criticize the administration of George W. Bush and the conservative agenda. Populism traditionally associated with the left has been appropriated by the right, which claims to represent the common citizen, who submits to conservative rhetoric rather than risk viewing an opposing opinion. Lukacs compares the nationalist populism of the time with Hitler's regime and considers it to be the root cause of many of the most frightening events of contemporary history.
Jude Blanchette wrote in Independent Review that "the democratic impulse, which for so long was the driving force of the left, is now equally identifiable with the conservative movement. One example is the right's complete acceptance of George W. Bush's doctrine of democratic revolution. One wonders how conservatives would greet the French Revolution if it were to occur today." A First Things reviewer concluded by writing that Democracy and Populism "is not a book for faint hearts."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, December 5, 1998, Christopher M. Bellitto, review of A Thread of Years, p. 26; February 10, 2003, Nancy J. Curtin, review of Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian, p. 26.
American Scholar, summer, 1998, Eugen Weber, review of A Thread of Years, p. 148.
Booklist, May 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of At the End of an Age, p. 1486.
First Things, May, 2002, review of At the End of an Age, p. 55; October, 2005, review of Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, p. 66.
Foreign Affairs, May-June, 1998, Stanley Hoffman, review of The Hitler of History, p. 144.
Independent Review, winter, 2006, Jude Blanchette, review of Democracy and Populism, p. 442.
Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Dennis L. Noble, review of The Hitler of History, p. 198; September 1, 1999, William D. Bushnell, review of Five Days in London, p. 212; June 15, 2002, H. James Birx, review of At the End of an Age, p. 69.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 15, 1984, Peter Loewenberg, review of Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, p. 1.
National Review, February 23, 1998, Richard Brookhiser, review of The Hitler of History, p. 53.
New Republic, Istvan Deak, review of The Hitler of History, p. 37.
New Statesman, June 27, 2005, David Marquand, review of Democracy and Populism, p. 48.
New Yorker, July 16, 1984, Naomi Bliven, review of Outgrowing Democracy, p. 88.
New York Times Book Review, September 30, 1984, J.C. Furnas, review of Outgrowing Democracy, p. 34.
Philadelphia Inquirer, January 6, 2003, Desmond Ryan, review of Churchill.
Publishers Weekly, August 4, 1997, review of The Hitler of History, p. 56; September 27, 1999, review of Five Days in London, p. 79.
State (Columbia, SC), October 17, 2002, William W. Starr, review of Churchill.
Washington Post Book World, May 6, 1984, Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., review of Outgrowing Democracy, p. 4.