Famous 20th Century Historians

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Historians, including Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Niall Ferguson, Donald Tusk and William Rehnquist.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Arnold J. Toynbee

Arnold J. Toynbee
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 14, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: October 22, 1975

 2 Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 15, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 25, 1984

If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.

 3 Max Weber

Max Weber
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: April 21, 1864
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Erfurt, Germany
Died: June 14, 1920

Max Weber was a German historian, political economist, jurist, and sociologist. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important theorists, Weber's ideas had a profound influence on social research and social theory. Although he did not see himself as a sociologist, Weber is often counted among the fathers of sociology alongside Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and Karl Marx.

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 4 H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 21, 1866
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bromley, Kent, England
Died: August 13, 1946

H. G. Wells was an English writer. Although he was prolific in many genres, he is best remembered for his work on sci-fi novels, for which he is often referred to as the father of science fiction. His 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon became so influential that a lunar impact crater is named after him.

 5 Terry Jones

Terry Jones
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales
Died: January 21, 2020
Starting his career as a comedy writer, actor-director Terry Jones later soared to fame as part of the Monty Python comedy team. An avid historian, too, he wrote several books and presented TV documentaries on the topic. In his later years, the BAFTA Cymru award winner struggled with dementia. 

 6 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kislovodsk, Russia
Died: August 3, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, and political prisoner. An outspoken critic of Communism and the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn helped raise awareness of the Gulag, a government agency that oversaw forced labor camps set up in accordance with Vladimir Lenin's order. His non-fiction text The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work and sold millions of copies.

 7 Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England, UK

British historian and author Lucy Worsley is not just a curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces, but is also a famed TV presenter, popular for her work on series such as A Very British Murder and If Walls Could Talk. Suffering from a speech disorder, she pronounces “r” in a peculiar way.

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 8 Anthony Blunt

Anthony Blunt
Famous As: Art Historian, University Teacher
Birthdate: September 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bournemouth, Hampshire, England
Died: March 26, 1983
Art historian Anthony Blunt is best remembered as part of the spy group Cambridge Five. His confession, revealed after years, stripped him of his knighthood. An expert on the works of Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin, he had also authored works such as Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700.

 9 George McGovern

George McGovern
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: July 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Avon, South Dakota, United States
Died: October 21, 2012

Historian George McGovern had been the U.S. senator from South Dakota. He held important positions related to food, agriculture, and nutrition, too, and was named a World Food Prize laureate for his efforts in reducing world hunger. He had also advocated for the end of the Vietnam War.

 10 Joe Medicine Crow

Joe Medicine Crow
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 27, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lodge Grass, Montana, United States
Died: April 3, 2016

The last Crow war chief, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow was part of the Whistling Water clan of Native Americans. The legendary indigenous hero was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A published historian, too, he is remembered for his research on the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

 11 Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar
Famous As: Historian, University teacher
Birthdate: November 30, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lucknow

Renowned history scholar and JNU professor Romila Thapar has also taught at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously been in the news for rejecting the Padma Bhushan twice, stating she didn’t accept state awards. She has also often opposed Hindutva and the “saffronization” of education.

 12 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

 13 Ian Kershaw

Ian Kershaw
Famous As: Contemporary historian, University teacher, Writer, Historian
Birthdate: April 29, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oldham

 14 E. P. Thompson

E. P. Thompson
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: February 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: August 28, 1993

British historian E. P. Thompson is best remembered for his iconic works such as The Making of the English Working Class. He was also a poet, a novelist, and a biographer. An anti-nuclear activist, too, he played a significant role in the formation of the New Left.  

 15 Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA

Bestselling author and essayist Sarah Vowell is known for her expertise in American history and her books such as Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes. She is also a regular on the radio program This American Life and has voiced Violet in the animated film The Incredibles.

 16 David Eisenhower

David Eisenhower
Famous As: Writer, Educator
Birthdate: March 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: West Point, New York, United States

Author, academic, and public policy fellow David Eisenhower teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Best known for his Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted book Eisenhower at War: 1943-1945, he is the grandson of former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower and the son of John Eisenhower. He is also the son-in-law of Richard Nixon.

 17 Fernand Braudel

Fernand Braudel
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: August 24, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luméville-en-Ornois, France
Died: November 27, 1985

Fernand Braudel was a French historian who led a group of historians who were associated with the Annales School. Braudel is credited with popularizing the school in France. As the leader of the school during the 1950s and 1960s, Braudel had a major influence on historical writings around the world. He is also counted among the forefathers of world-systems theory.

 18 Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham
Famous As: Journalist, Historian, Biographer
Birthdate: May 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chattanooga

Jon Meacham is an American historian, writer, reviewer, and presidential biographer. Over the years Meacham has contributed to popular publications like The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek. In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his work American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. He has also received honorary doctorates from many universities including the University of Tennessee.

 19 Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin
Famous As: Anarchist, Socialist & Historian
Birthdate: December 9, 1842
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: February 8, 1921

Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917. 

 20 Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 17, 1916
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Greenville, Mississippi, United States
Died: June 27, 2005

 21 Eric Foner

Eric Foner
Famous As: Historian of the modern age, Historian, University teacher, Actor, Writer
Birthdate: February 7, 1943
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City

Historian and Columbia professor Eric Foner specializes in American history. He is best known for his countless books, including Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fiery Trial. He has won the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and is part of the American Philosophical Society.

 22 Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould
Famous As: Paleontologist
Birthdate: September 10, 1941
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bayside, New York, United States
Died: May 20, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould was an American evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and historian of science. One of the most widely read and influential authors of popular science, Gould was named a Living Legend in April 2000 by the US Library of Congress. He is also counted among the most frequently cited scientists, as far as evolutionary theory is concerned.

 23 Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin
Famous As: Journalist, Historian
Birthdate: January 4, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brooklyn

Doris Kearns Goodwin is an American historian, biographer, and former sports journalist. She is best known for writing presidential biographies, including Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. In 1995, she won the Pulitzer Prize for History for her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

 24 Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson
Famous As: Commentator on modern and ancient warfare
Birthdate: September 5, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fowler, California, United States

Historian and academic Victor Davis Hanson is best known for his opinions on warfare and politics in publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He teaches at the California State University and Stanford's Hoover Institution. His academic interests include military history and classics.

 25 Suzannah Lipscomb

Suzannah Lipscomb
Famous As: historian
Birthdate: December 7, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Barnes, London, United Kingdom

Apart from being a historian and an award-winning professor, Suzannah Lipscomb is also a popular author and broadcaster. Known for presenting documentary series such as Walking Tudor England and Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder, she also pens columns for History Today and other publications and is a public speaker, too.

 26 James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson
Famous As: Historian, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: October 11, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Valley City

James M. McPherson is an American historian who serves as a professor at Princeton University. Well-known for his activism, McPherson spoke against the construction of a theme park near Manassas battlefield. A Civil War historian, McPherson won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for his work, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, in 1989.

 27 Marc Bloch

Marc Bloch
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: July 6, 1886
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: June 16, 1944

Marc Bloch was a French historian and founding member of a group of influential historians, which came to be known as the Annales School. Over the course of his illustrious career, Bloch published many of his works on Medieval France. He also taught at prestigious universities like the University of Strasbourg, the University of Montpellier, and the University of Paris.

 28 Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: May 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine

Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian journalist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich is known for her signature documentary-style novels, which mingle fiction and reporting. Her five-part Voices of Utopia mirrored the lives of people in the Soviet Union. With her writing, she often criticizes the governments of Belarus and the Soviet Union.

 29 Tim Considine

Tim Considine
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 31, 1940
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

Tim Considine is an American actor, photographer, automotive historian, and writer. He is best known for his performance in films like The Shaggy Dog and Sunrise at Campobello. He is credited with writing many books, namely The Photographic Dictionary of Soccer, The Language of Sport, and American Grand Prix Racing: A Century of Drivers and Cars.

 30 Gregg Wallace

Gregg Wallace
Famous As: TV Presenters
Birthdate: October 17, 1964
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Peckham, London, England, UK

Celebrity chef Gregg Wallace is now better known as a MasterChef judge. Interestingly, he had begun his career as a greengrocer in Covert Garden and had then launched George Allan's Greengrocers. Wallace met his wife on Twitter, when she asked him a cooking-related question. He also owns a fitness brand.

 31 Richard J. Evans

Richard J. Evans
Famous As: Historian, University teacher, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: September 29, 1947
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Woodford Green

 32 Mircea Eliade

Mircea Eliade
Famous As: Historian of Religion
Birthdate: March 13, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bucharest, Romania
Died: April 22, 1986

Mircea Eliade was a Romanian fiction writer, historian of religion, professor at the University of Chicago, and philosopher. His stories and novels have been adapted into films, such as The Bengali Night, which was directed by Nicolas Klotz. His works have also influenced writers all over the world.

 33 E. H. Carr

E. H. Carr
Famous As: Historian, Journalist, Diplomat, Writer, Political scientist, Professor
Birthdate: June 28, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London
Died: November 3, 1982

 34 Carter Woodson

Carter Woodson
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 19, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Canton, Virginia, United States
Died: April 3, 1950

Historian Carter Woodson was is remembered for pioneering Black studies in schools and colleges. He began the Negro History Week, which is now celebrated as the Black History Month. Poverty had pushed him to work in the coal mines initially, and he couldn’t join high school before 20.

 35 Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn
Famous As: Historian, playwright, philosopher, socialist thinker
Birthdate: August 24, 1922
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: January 27, 2010

Born into a Jewish working-class, immigrant family in Brooklyn, Howard Zinn was initially dragged into communism. He was part of the U.S. Army during World War II and later established himself as a historian. Of his many books, the most popular has been A People's History of the United States.

 36 David Irving

David Irving
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 24, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hutton, Brentwood, England

David Irving is an English Holocaust denier and author whose works pertaining to the political and military history of World War II have depicted Adolf Hitler in a favorable light. Due to his stance on Hitler, Irving's reputation as a historian has been discredited. He has also been accused of deliberately manipulating historical evidence.

 37 Cherie Blair

Cherie Blair
Famous As: Barrister
Birthdate: September 23, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bury, England

Apart from being the wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair is also a successful attorney in her own right. The daughter of actor Tony Booth, she is has also taught at the University of Westminster. She is associated with charitable campaigns on breast cancer and other causes, too.

 38 Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes
Famous As: historian
Birthdate: 1968 AD
Birthplace: London

The daughter of English actor Peter Hughes, art historian Bettany Hughes is also a popular TV personality and an author. Best known for presenting and writing documentaries and shows such as Ancient Discoveries and The Spartans, she also supports The Iris Project, which promotes Latin and Greek languages.

 39 René Girard

René Girard
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 40 Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 14, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

An expert in Byzantine history, author Harry Turtledove is known for his historical fiction and science-fiction books, such as How Few Remain and the Opening of the World series. Regarded as the “Master of Alternate History,” he has also won awards such as the Hugo Award for the Best Novella.

 41 Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson
Famous As: Historian, Biographer
Birthdate: October 23, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Detroit

Michael Eric Dyson is an American author, academic, radio host, and ordained minister. He is currently serving as a professor at Vanderbilt University and in the College of Arts and Science. Over the course of his illustrious career, Dyson has received a couple of NAACP Image Awards as well as an American Book Award for his skills as a writer.

 42 Robert Osborne

Robert Osborne
Famous As: Actor, Television actor, Biographer, Film actor, Historian, Journalist, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Film producer
Birthdate: May 3, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colfax
Died: March 6, 2017

Best known for his over two-decade-long stint as a Turner Classic Movies host, Robert Osborne also gained fame for his penning The Official History of the Academy Awards and the National Film Book Award-winning 50 Golden Years of Oscar. A qualified journalist, he also wrote columns for The Hollywood Reporter.

 43 Oswald Spengler

Oswald Spengler
Famous As: Historian, Philosopher
Birthdate: May 29, 1880
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Blankenburg, Germany
Died: May 8, 1936

German historian Oswald Spengler is best remembered for his iconic The Decline of the West, which had a huge influence on social theory. He believed that culture cannot be transferred and that it can only decline and decay like an organism. He lived his final years in isolation in Munich.

 44 Will Durant

Will Durant
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 5, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Adams, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 7, 1981

Will Durant was an American writer, philosopher, and historian. He is credited with writing The Story of Philosophy which helped popularize philosophy in the USA. Will is also remembered for co-writing an 11-volume set of books titled The Story of Civilization along with his wife Ariel. Will and Ariel were awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 45 Ejner Johansson

Ejner Johansson
Famous As: Art Historian
Birthdate: March 7, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Copenhagen, Denmark
Died: September 28, 2001

 46 Zinovia Dushkova

Zinovia Dushkova
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 19, 1953
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kongaz, Moldova

Zinovia Dushkova is a Russian poet, historian, philosopher, and author. A prominent writer, Dushkova's works have been translated into seven languages. In 2015, she was honored with the 20 Years of Gagauzia Medal. In 2017, Zinovia Dushkova’s book, The Call of the Heart, was honored at the Nautilus Book Awards with a silver medal in the United States of America.

 47 Mark Rutte

Mark Rutte
Famous As: Politician, Historian, Teacher, Pianist
Birthdate: February 14, 1967
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: The Hague

 48 Heather Cox Richardson

Heather Cox Richardson
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 1962 AD
Birthplace: Maine, U.S.

Heather Cox Richardson is an American professor and historian who is currently teaching history at Boston College. She has also taught history at prestigious institutions like the University of Massachusetts Amherst and MIT. Richardson has written many books on politics and history and is credited with founding werehistory.org, which houses short articles.

 49 Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 25, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Anne Applebaum is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gulag, which described the Soviet concentration camps. The American historian and journalist has worked for The Economist and The Spectator and now writes for The Atlantic. The mother of two now lives in Poland with her politician husband, Radek Sikorski.

 50 Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen E. Ambrose
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: January 10, 1936
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Decatur, Illinois, United States
Died: October 13, 2002

Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American biographer and historian. A respected figure, Ambrose was honored with several prestigious awards during his lifetime. In 1998, he was honored with the National Humanities Medal. The same year, he also won the Golden Plate Award as well as the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize. In 2001, he received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal.