English-American historian, essayist and university professor who specialised in Essay comparing two books history.
Marxism in the 1970s and 1980s. In later life, he described himself as «a universalist social democrat». According to journalist David Herman, Judt’s directorship of the Remarque Institute, his book Postwar and his articles on Israel made him «one of the best-known public intellectuals in America,» having previously been «a fairly obscure British historian, specialising in modern French history». Judt won a place at Emanuel School in Wandsworth, and following his education at Emanuel, he went on to study as a scholarship student at King’s College, Cambridge. After completing his Cambridge doctorate, he was elected a junior fellow of King’s College in 1972, where he taught modern French history until 1978. Judt was married three times, his first two marriages ending in divorce.
His third marriage was to Jennifer Homans, The New Republic’s dance critic, with whom he had two children. Judt’s piece in The New York Review of Books for 27 May 2010, refers at length to his teaching time at University of California, Davis, and not to time at Berkeley. The piece books refers comparing «a month of heavy radiation» for cancer in 2002, an illness two to his death from ALS several years later. Judt’s experiences in Paris contributed to what would become a long and fruitful relationship with French political culture. It was introduced by Annie Essay, who along with Maurice Agulhon was an important influence upon his early work as a French social historian.
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In the 1970s and 1980s, Judt was a historian of modern France. 1981 collects several previously unpublished essays on the 19th and 20th centuries, ending with a discussion of Mitterrand. Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault were curiously silent. One reason was their near-obsession with Communism. While proclaiming the need to «engage», to take a stand, two generations of intellectuals avoided any ethical issue that could not advance or, in some cases, retard the Marxist cause. Vichy was dismissed as the work of a few senile Fascists.
No one looked closely at what had happened during the Occupation, perhaps because very few intellectuals of any political stripe could claim to have had a «good» war, as Albert Camus did. No one stood up to cry «J’accuse! In the years following the publication of Past Imperfect, Judt turned his attention to the wider issues of European history. He spent the 1980s and much of the 1990s at Emory, Oxford, Stanford, and Vienna, where he taught political theory, learned Czech and became friendly with a number of east European intellectuals. Judt’s first broader book of this period—the result of a speech delivered at the Johns Hopkins-SAIS Bologna Center in 1995—was A Grand Illusion? In this extended essay, he dealt directly with the European Union and its prospects for the future, which, in his view, were quite bleak.
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