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For more than sixty years, John Lukacs has been writing, teaching, and reading about the past. In this inspired volume, he turns his attention to the future. ThroughoutThe Future of History, Lukacs reflects on his discipline, eloquently arguing that the writing and teaching of history are literary rather than scientific, comprising knowledge that is neither wholly objective nor subjective. History at its best, he contends, is personal and participatory. Despite a recently unprecedented appetite for history among the general public, as evidenced by history television program ratings, sales of popular history books, and increased participation in local historical societies, Lukacs believes that the historical profession is in a state of disarray. He traces a decline in history teaching throughout higher education, matched by a corresponding reduction in the number of history students. He reviews a series of short-lived fads within the profession that have weakened the fundamentals of the field. In looking for a way forward, Lukacs explores the critical relationships between history and literature, including ways in which novelists have contributed to historical understanding. Through this startling and enlightening work, readers will understand Lukacs's assertion that "everything has its history, including history" and that history itself has a future, since everything we know comes from the past.
Twenty years ago, John Lukacs paused to set down the history of his own thoughts and beliefs in Confessions of an Original Sinner, an adroit blend of autobiography and personal philosophy. Now, in Last Rites, he continues and expands his reflections, this time integrating his conception of history and human knowledge with private memories of his wives and loves, and enhancing the book with footnotes from his idiosyncratic diaries. The resulting volume is fascinating and delightful-an auto-history by a passionate, authentic, brilliant, and witty man. Lukacs begins with a concise rendering of a historical understanding of our world (essential reading for any historian), then follows with trenchant observations on his life in the United States, commentary on his native Hungary and the new meanings it took for him after 1989, and deeply personal portraits of his three wives, about whom he has not written before. He includes also a chapter on his formative memories of May and June 1940 and of Winston Churchill, a subject in some of Lukacs's later studies. Last Rites is a richly layered summation combined with a set of extraordinary observations-an original book only John Lukacs could have written. Praise for Confessions of an Original Sinner:"[Lukacs] is an often witty and always fascinating-even entertaining-writer."-Washington Post
This is a day-by-day account of the eighty-day struggle in 1940 between Hitler-poised on the edge of absolute victory-and Churchill-threatened by imminent invasion and defeat."A masterful book-masterful in its portrayal of its protagonists, masterful in its overall understanding of the death-struggle in which they engaged, masterful, above all, in its vivid, suspenseful chronicling of the most momentous eighty days in the history of this century."-Geoffrey Ward"This is a marvelous book. John Lukacs has lucid, unsentimental insight into the mind and character of both Churchill and Hitler."-Conor Cruise O'Brien"A wonderful story wonderfully told."-George F. Will"It is salutary to be reminded in this powerful study how close Hitler came to winning in 1940. . . . An impressive study . . . [written] with elegance and panache."-Peter Stansky, New York Times "A master of narrative history on a par with Barbara Tuchman and Garrett Mattingly."-Kirkus Reviews
The historian John Lukacs offers a concise history of the twentieth century--its two world wars and cold war, its nations and leaders. The great themes woven through this spirited narrative are inseparable from the authors own intellectual preoccupations: the fading of liberalism, the rise of populism and nationalism, the achievements and dangers of technology, and the continuing democratization of the globe. The historical twentieth century began with the First World War in 1914 and ended seventy-five years later with the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989. The short century saw the end of European dominance and the rise of American power and influence throughout the world. The twentieth century was an American century--perhaps "the" American century. Lukacs explores in detail the phenomenon of national socialism (national socialist parties, he reminds us, have outlived the century), Hitlers sole responsibility for the Second World War, and the crucial roles played by his determined opponents Churchill and Roosevelt. Between 1939 and 1942 Germany came closer to winning than many people suppose. Lukacs casts a hard eye at the consequences of the Second World War--the often misunderstood Soviet-American cold war--and at the shifting social and political developments in the Far and Middle East and elsewhere. In an eloquent closing meditation on the passing of the twentieth century, he reflects on the advance of democracy throughout the world and the limitations of human knowledge.
In September 1952, John Lukacs, then a young and unknown historian, wrote George Kennan (1904-2005), the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, asking one of the nation's best-known diplomats what he thought of Lukacs's own views on Kennan's widely debated idea of containing rather than militarily confronting the Soviet Union. A month later, to Lukacs's surprise, he received a personal reply from Kennan.So began an exchange of letters that would continue for more than fifty years. Lukacs would go on to become one of America's most distinguished and prolific diplomatic historians, while Kennan, who would retire from public life to begin a new career as Pulitzer Prize-winning author, would become revered as the man whose strategy of containment led to a peaceful end to the Cold War. Their letters, collected here for the first time, capture the writing and thinking of two of the country's most important voices on America's role and place in world affairs. From the division of Europe into East and West after World War II to its unification as the Soviet Union disintegrated, and from the war in Vietnam to the threat of nuclear annihilation and the fate of democracy in America and the world, this book provides an insider's tour of the issues and pivotal events that defined the Cold War.The correspondence also charts the growth and development of an intellectual and personal friendship that was intense, devoted, and honest. As Kennan later wrote Lukacs in letter, "perceptive, understanding, and constructive criticism is . . . as I see it, in itself a form of creative philosophical thought." It is a belief to which both men subscribed and that they both practiced.Presented with an introduction by Lukacs, the letters in Through the History of the Cold War reveal new dimensions to Kennan's thinking about America and its future, and illuminate the political--and spiritual--philosophies that the two authors shared as they wrote about a world transformed by war and by the clash of ideologies that defined the twentieth century.
This brilliant new work by the author of the best-selling Five Days in London, May 1940 is an unparalleled drama of two great leaders confronting each other in June 1941. It describes Hitler and Stalin's strange, calculating, and miscalculating relationship before the German invasion of Soviet Russia, with its gigantic (and unintended) consequences. John Lukacs questions many long-held beliefs; he suggests, for example, that among other things Hitler's first purpose involved England: if Stalin's Communist Russia were to be defeated, Hitler's Third Reich would be well-nigh invincible, and the British and American peoples would be forced to rethink the war against Hitler. The book offers penetrating insights and a new portrait of Hitler and Stalin, moved by their long-lasting inclinations. Yet among other things, Lukacs presents evidence that Hitler (rather than his generals) had moments of dark foreboding before the invasion. Stalin could not, because he wished not, believe that Hitler would choose the risk of a two-front war by attacking him; he was stunned and shocked and came close to a breakdown. But he recovered, grew into a statesman, and eventually became a prime victor of the Second World War. Such are the ironies of history; John Lukacs paints them with a shining narrative skill.
In this brilliant, strikingly original book, historian John Lukacs delves to the core of Adolf Hitler's life and mind by examining him through the lenses of his surprisingly diverse biographers.Since 1945 there have been more than one hundred biographies of Hitler, and countless other books on him and the Third Reich. What happens when so many people reinterpret the life of a single individual? Dangerously, the cumulative portrait that begins to emerge can suggest the face of a mythic antihero whose crimes and errors blur behind an aura of power and conquest. By reversing the process, by making Hitler's biographers--rather than Hitler himself--the subject of inquiry, Lukacs reveals the contradictions that take us back to the true Hitler of history.Like an attorney, Lukacs puts the biographies on trial. He gives a masterly account of all the major works and of the personalities, methods, and careers of the biographers (one cannot separate the historian from his history, particularly in this arena); he looks at what is still not known (and probably never will be) about Hitler; he considers various crucial aspects of the real Hitler; and he shows how different biographers have either advanced our understanding or gone off track. By singling out those who have been involved in, or co-opted into, an implicit "rehabilitation of Hitler," Lukacs draws powerful conclusions about Hitler's essential differences from other monsters of history, such as Napoleon, Mussolini, and Stalin, and--equally important--about Hitler's place in the history of this century and of the world.From the Hardcover edition.
To study history is to learn about oneself. And to fail to grasp the importance of the past--to remain ignorant of the deeds and writing of previous generations--is to bind oneself by the passions and prejudices of the age into which one is born. John Lukacs, one of today's most widely published historians, explains what the study of history entails, how it has been approached over the centuries, and why it should be undertaken by today's students. This guide is an invitation to become a master of the historian's craft.
In a career spanning more than sixty-five years, John Lukacs has established himself as one of our most accomplished historians. Now, in the stimulating book History and the Human Condition, Lukacs offers his profound reflections on the very nature of history, the role of the historian, the limits of knowledge, and more.Guiding us on a quest for knowledge, Lukacs ranges far and wide over the past two centuries. The pursuit takes us from Alexis de Tocqueville to the atomic bomb, from American "exceptionalism" to Nazi expansionism, from the closing of the American frontier to the passing of the modern age.Lukacs's insights about the past have important implications for the present and future. In chronicling the twentieth-century decline of liberalism and rise of conservatism, for example, he forces us to rethink the terms of the liberal-versus-conservative debate. In particular, he shows that what passes for "conservative" in the twenty-first century often bears little connection to true conservatism.Lukacs concludes by shifting his gaze from the broad currents of history to the world immediately around him. His reflections on his home, his town, his career, and his experiences as an immigrant to the United States illuminate deeper truths about America, the unique challenges of modernity, the sense of displacement and atomization that increasingly characterizes twenty-first-century life, and much more. Moving and insightful, this closing section focuses on the human in history, masterfully displaying how right Lukacs is in his contention that history, at its best, is personal and participatory.History and the Human Condition is a fascinating work by one of the finest historians of our time. More than that, it is perhaps John Lukacs's final word on the great themes that have defined him as a historian and a writer.