Arnold A. Rogow: 81, a Writer Who Put History on the Couch, Dies

Historians in the News

Arnold A. Rogow, an author and political scientist who trained as a psychoanalyst to gain insight into historical figures like Alexander Hamilton, died on Feb. 14 at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital in Manhattan. He was 81.

The cause was complications of a stroke, his daughter Jeanne Rogow said.

Mr. Rogow, a professor at City College of New York, argued in his book "A Fatal Friendship: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr" (Hill and Wang, 1998) that Hamilton became obsessed with his hatred of Burr and that this obsession ultimately prompted him to force the situation that led to his death in their duel. Hamilton, more than Burr, was thus responsible for Hamilton's death, Mr. Rogow argued.

He arrived at his conclusion by examining Hamilton's personal letters. So far as is known, Burr never openly criticized Hamilton.

Mr. Rogow used his psychoanalytic knowledge to diagnose Hamilton as a manic depressive who, in effect, committed suicide by agreeing to fight a duel with Burr. Mr. Rogow argued that Hamilton was pulled down by recurring illnesses and was depressed by Washington's unexpected death in 1799.

Hamilton's decision not to fire, as well as his serenity in the days before the duel, contributed to Mr. Rogow's diagnosis.

Some critics suggested that Mr. Rogow's psychological approach to biography was limited. Fred Anderson, a historian who reviewed "A Fatal Friendship" in The Los Angeles Times, said Mr. Rogow relied on motives that can "only be inferred from the elliptical and fragmentary writings of the participants."

Suggesting that Mr. Rogow's narrative became lost in the "psychosexual wilderness," Mr. Anderson wrote, "The result is a narrative so thick with ifs and maybes that even Rogow loses his way."

Read entire article at NYT

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