David A. Bell: Remembering Tony Judt





[David A. Bell teaches history at Princeton University.]

Tony Judt, who passed away this weekend, always struck me as an old-fashioned historian, in the best sense of the phrase.

First, he liked big, ambitious themes. Lots of historians today write textbooks that cover broad geographical areas and time periods, but they generally distinguish these efforts from their “serious” work, while carefully calibrating their sentences to fit the comprehension of ill-educated adolescents and the dreary correctness of curriculum committees. Very few historians take on a massive subject like post-war Europe, read everything they can find on the subject, and put it together in a sweeping narrative with brio, eloquence, and—gasp—real arguments. Judt’s masterpiece, Postwar, has a grandeur that has become all too rare in the field....

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