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Donald Kagan (born 1932) is an American historian at Yalemarker specializing in ancient Greece, notable for his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War. He was Dean of Yale College from 1989–1992. He formerly taught in the Department of History at Cornell Universitymarker. In a review in The New Yorker, critic George Steiner said of Kagan's seminal four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War: "The temptation to acclaim Kagan's four volumes as the foremost work of history produced in North America in this century is vivid." Kagan is generally considered among the foremost scholars of Ancient Greek history at present.

Born into a family in Lithuaniamarker, Kagan grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker, where his family emigrated shortly after the death of his father. He graduated from Brooklyn Collegemarker, then received an MA from Brown Universitymarker and a PhD from the Ohio State Universitymarker in 1958.

Once a liberal Democrat, Professor Kagan changed his views by the 1970s and became one of the original signers to the 1997 Statement of Principles by the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century. According to Jim Lobe, cited in The Fall Of The House Of Bush by Craig Unger (p.39, n.), Kagan's turn away from liberalism occurred in the late sixties when Cornell University was pressured into starting a Black studies program by protesting students: "Watching administrators demonstrate all the courage of Neville Chamberlain had a great impact on me, and I became much more conservative." On the eve of the 2000 presidential elections, Kagan and his son, Frederick Kagan, published While America Sleeps, a call to increase defense spending. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded Donald Kagan the National Humanities Medal in 2002, and selected him to deliver the 2005 Jefferson Lecture, which the NEH calls "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities." Kagan's Jefferson Lecture was entitled "In Defense of History"; he argued that history is of primary importance in the study of the humanities.

Kagan is currently Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale Universitymarker — a title reserved for only the select few most accomplished academics at Yale. His course "The Origins of War" was one of the university's most popular courses for twenty-five years. He currently teaches "Introduction to Ancient Greek History" and upper level History and Classical Civilization seminars focusing on topics from Thucydides to Spartan Hegemony. He lives in New Havenmarker, Connecticutmarker.

Another son, Robert Kagan, is also active in conservative politics and foreign relations.


  • Kagan, Donald. (1965). The Great Dialogue: A History of Greek Political Thought from Homer to Polybius. New York: Free Press.
  • Kagan, Donald. (1969). The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0501-7.
  • Kagan, Donald. (1974). The Archidamian War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0889-X.
  • Kagan, Donald. (1981). The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-1367-2.
  • Kagan, Donald. (1987). The Fall of the Athenian Empire. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-1935-2
  • Kagan, Donald. (1991). Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86395-2.
  • Kagan, Donald. (1995). On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-42374-8.
  • Kagan, Donald and Kagan, Frederick. (2000). While America Sleeps. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-20624-0.
  • Kagan, Donald, Ozment, Steven, and Turner, Frank M.. (2003). The Western Heritage. New York: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-182839-8.
  • Kagan, Donald, Craig, Albert M., Graham, William A., Ozment, Steven, and Turner, Frank M. (2000). The Heritage of World Civilizations.
  • Kagan, Donald. (2003). The Peloponnesian War. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-03211-5.


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