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John Patrick Diggins (April 1, 1935 – January 28, 2009) was a professor of history at the City University of New York Graduate Center, the author of more than a dozen books on widely variant subjects in American intellectual history, and one of the leading scholars in his field.


Diggins was born in San Franciscomarker on April 1, 1935. His father was an immigrant from Ireland who worked for the city as a gardener. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1957, was awarded a master's degree from San Francisco State Collegemarker and earned his doctorate in 1964 at the University of Southern Californiamarker. He was an assistant professor at San Francisco State College from 1963 to 1969, an associate professor and professor at the University of California, Irvinemarker thereafter, and hired in 1990 as a Distinguished Professor at the CUNY Graduate Centermarker..

Diggins also held for a time the Chair in American Civilization at the L'Ecole des Hautes Etude, Paris (the old Sorbonne), and was a visiting professor at Cambridge and Princeton University. He delivered lectures at universities around the world, including Oxford, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Salzburg, Vienna, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Venice, Trieste, Mexico City, New Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Caracas, Hokkaido, Osaka, Oslo, Budapest, Montreal, Victoria, Christchurch, Wellington, the U.S. Library of Congress, John Hopkins, Harvard, UCLA, Claremont, Minnesota, Stanford, Chicago, Cornell, and Yale Law School. In addition, he gave the Commonwealth Lecture at the University of London, and the Trilling Seminar at Columbia University.

Diggins was also a consultant on numerous films and documentaries, including: "Between the Wars"; "Reds"; "John Dos Passos"; "The Greenwich Village Rebellion"; " Emma Goldman"; "The New York Intellectuals"; " The Future of the American left"; and "Il Duce, Fascismo e American" (Italian Television). He was a frequent participant in conferences, contributed to a number of edited works, reviewed nearly a hundred books in various academic journals and newspapers, and was interviewed by the scholarly and mainstream press in the United States and abroad.

His writings appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Republic, Nation, National Review, La Revue Tocqueville, Il Messaggero, London Review of Books, Wilson Quarterly, National Interest, American Historical Review, Journal of American History, Journal of Contemporary History, Partisan Review, Raritan, Univ. of Chicago Law Review, American Political Science Review, and History & Theory.

Diggins's interests covered the span of American history, from the foundations of the United States to the postmodern world. His own stance was one he described as lying "to the right of the Left and to the left of the Right."

"Diggins himself was not a man whose values were completely in synch with the left. He was, like the great literary critic Lionel Trilling, “in the middle.” He was “critical of the anticapitalist Left for seeing in the abolition of property an end to oppression” but also “critical of the antigovernment Right for seeing in the elimination of political authority the end of tyranny and the restoration of liberty.”"

A resident of Manhattanmarker, he died at age 73 on January 28, 2009 in New York from colorectal cancer. He was survived by his companion of 15 years, Elizabeth Harlan, herself the author of a biography of George Sand, a son and daughter, two sisters and two grandchildren.


  • (2007) Eugene O'Neill's America: Desire Under Democracy
  • (2007) Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History
  • (2004) The Portable John Adams (editor)
  • (2003) John Adams: The American Presidents Series
  • (2000) On Hallowed Ground: Abraham Lincoln and the Foundations of American History
  • (1997) The Liberal Persuasion: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and the Challenge of the American Past (co-editor)
  • (1996) Max Weber: Politics and the Spirit of Tragedy
  • (1994) The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority
  • (1988) The Proud Decades: America in War and Peace, 1941-1960
  • (1984) The Lost Soul of American Politics: Virtue, Self-Interest, and the Foundations of Liberalism
  • (1981) The Problem of Authority in American (co-editor)
  • (1978) The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory
  • (1975) Up From Communism: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History
  • (1973) The American Left in the Twentieth Century (reworked into The Rise and Fall of the American Left, 1992)
  • (1972) Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America

Journal Articles

  • Dos Passos and Veblen’s Villains, Antioch Review 23, no. 4 (1963-1964): 485-500.
  • Flirtation with Fascism: American Pragmatic Liberals and Mussolini’s Italy, American Historical Review 71, no. 2 (1966): 487-506.
  • The American Writer, Fascism, and the Liberation of Italy, American Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1966): 599-614.
  • Mussolini and America: Hero-Worship, Charisma, and the “Vulgar Talent,” Historian 28, no. 4 (1966): 559-85.
  • American Catholics and Italian Fascism, Journal of Contemporary History 2, no. 4 (1967): 51-68.
  • The Italo-American Antifascist Opposition, Journal of American History 54, no. 3 (1967)
  • Ideology and Pragmatism: Philosophy or Passion?, American Political Science Review 64, no. 3 (1970): 899-906.
  • Consciousness and Ideology in American History: The Burden of Daniel J. Boorstin, American Historical Review 76, no. 1 (1971): 99-118.
  • The Perils of Naturalism: Some Reflections on Daniel J. Boorstin’s Approach to American History, American Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1971): 153-80.
  • Thoreau, Marx, and the "Riddle" of Alienation, Social Research 39, no. 4 (1972)
  • Getting Hegel out of History: Max Eastman’s Quarrel with Marxism, American Historical Review 79, no. 1 (1974): 38-71.
  • Visions of Chaos and Visions of Order: Dos Passos as Historian, American Literature 46, no. 3 (1974): 329-46.
  • Four Theories in Search of a Reality: James Burnham, Soviet Communism, and the Cold War, American Political Science Review 70, no. 2 (1976): 492-508.
  • Slavery, Race, and Equality: Jefferson and the Pathos of the Enlightenment, American Quarterly 28, no. 2 (1976): 206-28.
  • Animism and the Origins of Alienation: The Anthropological Perspective of Thorstein Veblen, History and Theory 16, no. 2 (1977): 113-36.
  • Reification and the Cultural Hegemony of Capitalism: The Perspectives of Marx and Veblen, Social Research 44, no. 2 (1977).
  • Barbarism and Capitalism: The Strange Perspectives of Thorstein Veblem, Marxist Perspectives 1, no. 2 (1978): 138-57.
  • The Socialization of Authority and the Dilemmas of American Liberalism, Social Research 46 (1979): 454-86.
  • Power and Authority in American History: The Case of Charles A. Beard and his Critics, American Historical Review 86, no. 4 (1981): 701-30.
  • The Oyster and the Pearl: The Problem of Contextualism in Intellectual History, History and Theory 23, no. 2 (1984): 151-69.
  • Republicanism and Progressivism, American Quarterly 37, no. 4 (1985): 572-98.
  • “Who Bore the Failure of the Light”: Henry Adams and the Crisis of Authority, New England Quarterly 58, no. 2 (1985): 165- 92.
  • Comrades and Citizens: New Mythologies in American Historiography, American Historical Review 90, no. 3 (1985): 614-38.
  • Between Bailyn and Beard: The Perspectives of Gordon S. Wood, William and Mary Quarterly vol. XLIV (1987): 563-68.
  • John Adams et les Critiques Francais de la Constitution Americaine (“John Adams and the French Critics of the Constitution”), La Revue Tocqueville 9 (1987-1988): 155-80.
  • The Misuses of Gramsci, The Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 141-45.
  • Knowledge and Sorrow: Louis Hartz’s Quarrel with American History, Political Theory 16, no. 3 (1988): 355-76.
  • Class, Classical, and Consensus Views of the Constitution, University of Chicago Law Review 55, no. 2 (1988): 555-70.
  • From Pragmatism to Natural Law: Walter Lippmann’s Quest for the Foundation of Legitimacy, Political Theory 19, no. 4 (1991): 519-38.
  • Thorstein Veblen and the Literature of the Theory Class, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 6, no. 4 (1993): 481-90.
  • America’s Two Visitors: Tocqueville and Weber, La Revue Tocqueville 17, no. 2 (1996): 165-182.
  • Arthur O. Lovejoy and the Challenge of Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas 67, no. 1 (2006): 181-208.


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